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WDC joins US network to help rescue whales and dolphins

Goods news for whales and dolphins in the US. WDC's team there has officially joined...
Bryde's whale

Whalers in Japan return to port with over 200 whales

Japan's factory whaling ship, the "Nisshin Maru" returned to port on November 14th at the...
North Atlantic right whale

Success! Court stops US government attempt to block whale protection lawsuit

A federal court in the US has dismissed attempts by Joe Biden's administration to halt...

More good news for WDC’s End Captivity tour operators campaign

WDC's ongoing campaign asking tour operators not to promote cruel whale and dolphin captivity shows...
All policy news
  • All policy news
  • Create healthy seas
  • End captivity
  • Prevent deaths in nets
  • Stop whaling
  • Strandings

Minke whale hunts stop in Iceland

Iceland’s commercial hunt of minke whales has ended for this year. The common minke whale is the...
Port River dolphins

New report reveals 100,000 dolphins and small whales hunted every year

When you hear the words ‘dolphin hunts’ it’s likely that you think of Japan or...

Doubts remain after Icelandic Marine Institute claims slaughtered whale was a hybrid not a blue

Experts remain sceptical of initial test results issued by the Icelandic Marine Institute, which indicate...

Japan set to resume commercial whaling

Reports from Japan suggest that the government they will formally propose plans to resume commercial...

End the whale hunts! Icelandic fin whaler isolated as public mood shifts

Here’s a sight I hoped never again to witness. A boat being scrubbed and repainted...

Australian Government to block Japanese whaling proposal

Japanese Government officials have reportedly confirmed that they will propose the resumption of commercial whaling...

Pregnant whales once again a target for Japanese whalers

Figures from Japan's whaling expedition to Antarctica during the 2017/18 austral summer have revealed that...

Did Icelandic whalers really kill a blue whale?

*Warning - this blog contains an image that you may find upsetting* They say a...

Icelandic whalers breach international law and kill iconic, protected whale by mistake

Icelandic whalers out hunting fin whales for the first time in three years appear to...

Norway's whaling season begins

April 1st saw the start of the whaling season in Norway. Despite a widely-accepted international moratorium...

Norway increases whaling quota despite declining demand

Norway's government has announced an increase in the number of minke whales that can be...

Icelandic fin whale hunting to resume

Iceland’s only fin whaling company, Hvalur hf,  announced today that it will resume fin whaling...

Animal culture crucial for conservation says new research paper

Grey whale eye

New research published today in The Royal Society Journal Proceedings B  creates a compelling case for integrating the social learning and culture of creatures like whales into decision-making.

WDC’s Philippa Brakes, together with a number of experts working on a wide range of species, from whales to chimpanzees, argues in the new paper that the cultural knowledge of some creatures should be taken into consideration for their conservation and future survival.

We are only now beginning to appreciate just how important these aspects are to species’ resilience and yet they are rarely ever considered in wildlife conservation planning.

The in-depth analysis provides a ground-breaking roadmap for scientists, policy-makers and conservation practitioners to embed culture into conservation policy and practice.  Faced with the urgent threat of a biodiversity crisis, this could make all the difference in maximising the survival prospects of individuals, social groups and populations.

The paper has been published as Disney is set to air its new series on the subject of whale culture, Secrets of the Whales. The series, which begins on the 22nd April, could be a genuine game changer for how the public perceive whales and dolphins, and their understanding of just how important the rich social lives and unique cultures are to these species.

Like humans, many other animals learn important things from each other. For example, whales using ‘bubble-feeding’ techniques to catch fish. Socially learned foraging techniques transmitted between bottlenose dolphins may help buffer against environmental events such as marine heatwaves, and culturally transmitted humpback whale song may help us identify and assess populations.

Over time, learned behaviour can create differences between groups of whales or dolphins that reflect different cultures which shape how they forage for food, migrate or communicate. Understanding these socially learned behavioural differences between groups can guide decisions on how to define groups to protect. It can also inform practical conservation measures, such as teaching anti-predator behaviours, or helping with reintroduction to the wild.

“Conservation practice has long been guided by genetics and ecology that assess how unique or connected different groups of animals are”, says lead author Philippa Brakes. “We show that social learning and animal culture is another important facet of biology that can guide effective conservation strategies.”

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