All articles
  • All articles
  • About whales & dolphins
  • Create healthy seas
  • End captivity
  • Prevent deaths in nets
  • Stop whaling
Preparations for beluga whale move to Iceland continue

Preparations for beluga whale move to Iceland continue

http://au.whales.org/2019/03/06/preparations-for-beluga-whale-move-to-iceland-continue/
Whale culture should play a part in their conservation says new international study

Whale culture should play a part in their conservation says new international study

An international group of researchers working on a wide range of species, including whales, argues...
Uk trade talks with New Zealand should raise concerns about endangered dolphins

Uk trade talks with New Zealand should raise concerns about endangered dolphins

WDC is leading a coalition of organisations urging the UK government to use its trade...
Multiple belugas moved in US marine parks

Multiple belugas moved in US marine parks

Over the last month, there has been a flurry of movement between marine parks in the U.S....
Iceland to kill over two thousand fin and minke whales

Iceland to kill over two thousand fin and minke whales

The Icelandic fisheries minister has announced a new whaling quota, which will allow Icelandic whalers...
How we are working with communities to build a whale sanctuary

How we are working with communities to build a whale sanctuary

The beluga whale sanctuary is all about belugas, right? Yes of course it is, but wherever we work...
Record numbers of dolphins dead on French beaches

Record numbers of dolphins dead on French beaches

According to reports from France, huge numbers of dolphins have been washing up dead on...
Dolphinaris Arizona will no longer hold dolphins

Dolphinaris Arizona will no longer hold dolphins

A week after closing, the signs were removed from Dolphinaris Arizona as the marine park undergoes an...

Sperm whale ’poo-nado’ – murky waters but clear signal?

sperm whale defecating

In a dramatic ‘racheting up’ of the old joke which runs along the lines of “who’d want to swim in the sea?  After all, that’s where fish go to the toilet” comes the story currently receiving much media attention, concerning a group of free divers photographing sperm whales underwater off Dominica under government permit.

Visibility turned to near-zero as the divers were suddenly engulfed by a giant cloud of sperm whale poo which rapidly spread to cover over 30 metres, reportedly whipped up into a ‘whirlwind’ by the whale spinning on its side and fanning its massive fluke (tail).

Why might whales do this?

Described as a ‘poo-nado’ by Canadian underwater photographer, Keri Wilk, it is speculated that this behaviour could be a defence mechanism, warning off anyone approaching too closely. This is  similar to skunks spraying or fulmar chicks vomiting as a deterrent; and indeed pygmy and dwarf sperm whales use a fascinating deterrent dubbed the ‘squid tactic‘ whereby they can eject a dense cloud of over 12 litres (3 gallons) of dark, reddish-brown inky liquid from a special intestinal sac  to confuse or deter potential predators.

Although the press is widely reporting this behaviour as ‘rarely seen’, it may not be that uncommon.  Certainly this has also been witnessed by professional film-maker and underwater photographer, Andrew Sutton, and author and broadcaster, Philip Hoare, both WDC ambassadors, who have filmed these whales under licence in their professional capacity.  Philip commented: “Fascinating to read media coverage of a sperm whale ‘poonado’ off Dominica.  Andrew Sutton and I both experienced similar incidents with sperm whales, in the Azores and Sri Lanka.  In the former, a sperm whale calf seemed to use defecation as a clear (or not so clear!) ‘smokescreen’ when I inadvertently came too close to it.  Was this a nervous loosening of its bowels, too?  Perhaps that is, in itself, an evolutionary development.”

WDC’s position is that – with the exception of a very small number of professionals working under strict permit conditions and using their outputs to directly benefit whale conservation  –  the rest of us should not attempt to get into the water with whales or dolphins, for the safety and welfare of both parties.