Recently, dolphins have been in the news in Singapore for the wrong reasons. Captive dolphins dying at the Marine Life Park at Resorts World Sentosa, as well as the recent dolphin carcasses swept-up on our beach made for some depressing news.
Most people’s idea of seeing wild dolphins is to go on a holiday far away, perhaps Australia or New Zealand to experience them first hand. So it comes as a surprise that dead dolphins can wash ashore locally. Yet, Singapore does have a healthy population of wild dolphins around its territorial waters. The most commonly encountered species in Singapore are the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus). If one take a boat ride along Singapore Strait for a day trip, there is probably a 50% chance that a pod or two of them will show up.
I had been involved in a few pelagic bird survey trips in the Singapore Strait for the past 3 years, mainly organized by Nature Society (Singapore), so there have been a couple of times that I have seen these aquatic mammals. Most of the time, the encounters have been brief, and I am exceedingly bad at getting decent photographs of them. It is almost like a game of whack-a-mole, trying to predict where they will surface again after the initial contact. These are wild dolphins. Though curious, they do not linger for long, and there is no history of prolonged contact with human, unlike their cousins elsewhere. Nonetheless, the encounters are always a delight to almost everyone on-board, again underlining the charismatic nature of these animals.