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Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin

Sousa chinensis

A distinct sub-species, the Taiwanese humpback dolphin lives only in the coastal waters of western Taiwan.

They are listed as Critically Endangered and there are thought to be fewer than 50 individuals remaining.

humpback dolphin illustration
Male Female Calf
Maximum length 2.8m 2.6m 1m
Maximum weight 280kg Unknown Unknown

IUCN conservation status: Vulnerable
Taiwanese sub-species: Critically Endangered

What do Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins look like?

A lot depends on where they live! They all start off looking similar; pale grey as calves, their colouration changes as they get older as they appear to go through a ‘mottling’ stage. Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins found in China for example are white (hence the name the Chinese white dolphin), whilst in Hong Kong they are pink., Elsewhere, throughout their range they tend to look more like their cousins the Indian Ocean humpback dolphin and are uniformly grey. As with their Australian counter-parts, this species doesn’t have the distinctive ‘hump’ either.

What’s life like for an Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin?

Pretty precarious, again however, much depends on where they live. Given their preference for shallow, coastal waters, they come into contact with humans more regularly than other dolphins might and this can be lethal. They are hunted, and individual dolphins that have been accidentally caught in fishing nets are often kept and used as food, again as a result of their preference for shallower, coastal waters.

It is not known what the total population size is for Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins.

What do Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins eat?

Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins will eat a variety of fish species, dependant on where they live. Individuals have been seen trying to catch a free meal off the back of trawlers and in some places hanging out near nets hoping to nab an escapee.

Where do Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins live?

Historically, Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins lived in shallow, coastal waters from central China in the east, through south-east Asia and as far west as the east coast of India. Today however, there are thought to be many areas along this route where they are no longer found – mostly as a result of exposure to human-induced threats.

The dangers of human activities

Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins living in some of the busiest waters in the world – those in Hong Kong – are thought to be some of the most heavily impacted coastal dolphins globally. Shipping, habitat degradation (through multiple land reclamation projects) and pollution are thought to be taking a toll and the population numbers continue to fall year on year. In some years no calves have been known to survive, likely due to the pollutant off-load by the mother through her milk.

Distribution map

Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin distribution map

Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins need your help

The main threats...

  • Hunting – whether used opportunistically as a result of bycatch, or the victims of directed hunts, the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin is under serious threat.

  • Entanglement in fishing gear – their preference for nearshore waters brings them into close contact with a variety of fishing gears.

  • Pollution – pollution is one of the burgeoning threats facing Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins throughout their range.

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