January 18, 2016
A Rare Sighting in Sri Lanka
- as seen by -Melinda Rekdahl
Sri Lanka is well-known as one of the best areas close to shore to see pygmy blue whales. While in Sri Lanka for a meeting, I took the opportunity to see if I could find these ocean giants. Although we did find a pygmy blue whale, I was even more excited by a rare sighting of a pod of around 15 false killer whales that approached the boat and started swimming close to the bow.
False killer whales are one of the lesser-known dolphin species, yet they are thought to be widespread in most of the world’s oceans across temperate and tropical offshore waters. Although they share the name “killer whale” with their larger cousins, they are smaller, averaging around 5-6 meters (about 18 feet) in length, have a rounded, elongated head without a beak or ‘rostrum’, and have short, pointed flippers.
The one population around Hawaii that has been relatively well-studied has shown steep declines in numbers. There is concern that they are vulnerable to human threats such as loss of habitat, pollution, and increasing ocean noise.
Seeing these unique dolphins reminded me just how many species we know so little about in our seas. Increasing knowledge and awareness of the false killer whale and other ocean giants will help us better understand how we can conserve them.