Exciting new discoveries in India and Sri Lanka”

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Omura’s whale observed off the coast of Sri Lanka in February 2017. This is the first record of the species in Sri Lankan waters.

During recreational scuba dives over the course of two days in March 2017, Ajey Patil, a dive instructor in Goa (www.divegoa.com and divers Khush and Venkat from Barracuda Dive Club heard something new under water:  A series of strange and wonderful sounds that Ajey later described as “Honks, Grunts, Moo’s, and Machine gun rattling.”  It took him a few moments to realize that he was listening to the song of a male humpback whale. Not long before this event, ASWN member, Dipani Sutaria and her team of researchers had hosted a workshop in Goa to raise awareness of India’s whales and dolphins and their conservation needs.  Ajey had also purchased a Whale identification poster and guidebook to have on hand at his Dive shop.  When he heard this song, he realized that he had an opportunity to collect valuable data that Dipani and her colleagues could use to better understand these whales. Thinking quickly, he knelt on the sandy substrate of the sea, set his underwater camera to video mode and proceeded to record 20 minutes of humpback whale song.

While this recording is not of the same duration or quality as the acoustic data collected off the coast of Oman over the past several years, it provides valuable proof that humpback whales are present off the coast of Goa, indicating a possible season and location for more focused (acoustic) whale research in the future. Furthermore, since the ESO-Five Oceans research team was also collecting acoustic data from Oman in march 2017, it may be possible to compare the song from both areas and look for similarities as a potential indication of ongoing connections between the whales on either side of the Arabian Sea.

The network of eyes and ears that are now tuned to searching for whales along the West coast of India is growing, and we hope that more keen divers, boaters and/or fishermen will come forth with reports similar to Ajey’s in the months ahead.

In other exciting news, ASWN member Asha de Vos has published a paper on the First record of an Omura’s whale in Sri Lanka.  The sighting occurred on February 5th 2017 during a survey focusing on blue whale  photo-identification.  Multiple photos of the single individual were taken, and Asha was able to confirm the species ID through five important characteristics described in other papers from the region, including the recently published record off the coast of Iran and descriptions of the species as observed off the coast of Madagascar.

For a full press release on this exciting new paper click here.