Mumbai's dolphins make a splash

Updated: Mar 28, 2020, 08:34 IST | Fiona Fernandez | Mumbai

In some good news, a city- based marine conservationist verifies the video of the dolphin- spotting, and remind Mumbaikars that our shores were always their home

A dolphin captured by Darshan Khatau, a wildlife enthusiast
A dolphin captured by Darshan Khatau, a wildlife enthusiast

Earlier this week, as Mumbai came to a grinding halt under a complete lockdown, a series of videos started making the rounds on social media, hailing the ' return' of dolphins to Mumbai's waters. All kinds of theories and locations of their sightings floated around. Some chose to dismiss the videos suggesting that they were fake and doctored like the ones that had emerged from Italy showing dolphins and other marine life returning to Venice's canals as the country was in lockdown.

But, Shaunak Modi, co- founder of Coastal Conservation Foundation and part of Marine Life of Mumbai, gave us some good news when we reached out to him regarding the authenticity of the videos and pictures. Turns out, these dolphins are a common sight in Mumbai's waters, close to Marine Drive. The Indian Ocean humpback dolphins ( Sousa plumbea) have been documented in the area over a long period of time, according to him and his fellow wildlife conservationists who are engaged in studying dolphin activity around city's waters.

Shaunak Modi, co-founder of Coastal Conservation Foundation
Shaunak Modi, co-founder of Coastal Conservation Foundation

Excerpts from the interview:

mid- day: The videos and pictures have become the talking point…

Shaunak Modi: It's gone a bit haywire after some celebrities shared one of the videos attributing their presence to the city shutting down. The video that was shared was taken by wildlife enthusiast Darshan Khatau and was shared without his permission or due credit. We're lucky to have these beautiful animals living along our city's waters. They are as much a part of Mumbai's wildlife as the SGNP leopards. Their presence has nothing to do with the shutdown.

MD: When was the last time they were spotted in these waters? Or have they always been here and just happen to miss the eye?

SM: This pod is being documented almost daily for past three years. They've been observed in the general area for over a decade now. I would assume they've been here far longer, except that there's no documentation available that we have come across.

MD: What could be the estimated numbers of this species along our shores?

SM: There's no way to tell. Most of the information is from fishermen or citizens who manage to photograph them. As far as I know, no research has yet been done in Mumbai. There is a project in the works, but it would be too soon to talk about it. What we know is that these dolphins have been seen in inshore waters all along Mumbai's western seaboard and even at the mouth of the Thane creek.

About the Indian Ocean humpback dolphins

Indian Ocean humpback dolphins are one of the two coastal cetaceans that can be spotted near inshore waters in the city - the other being Finless porpoise ( Neophocaena phocaenoides). This species is found in localised patches along India's west coast, usually in shallow waters that are very close to the shore and around river mouths and estuaries.

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