Marine Mammal Survey
To assess and monitor the marine mammal populations in the territorial waters of Singapore
Marine mammals are charismatic species that raise awareness of the need for marine conservation, but their position at the top of the food chain means they are also considered to be significant indicators of the health of defined marine ecosystems. With escalations in coastal development and climate change combining to disrupt existing ecological balances, it is now particularly important to study key indicator species – both those that normally remain in one territorial area and those that migrate perhaps on annual or semi-annual cycles – since coastal and riverine species are often the first to be affected by rapid changes of this nature.
Research conducted during the 1990s on marine mammal ecology confirmed that five species of marine mammals were seen in Singapore waters with rare sightings of other species. Two species of dolphin, the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin (Sousa chinensis) and the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus aduncus), are fairly frequently sighted in Singapore waters, and there have been occasional sightings of the Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris), the finless porpoise (Neophocaena phocaenoides) and an herbivorous marine mammal, the dugong (Dugong dugon). A false killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens) in Tuas Bay made headline news in the Straits Times in 1994. The coastal nature of these species makes them particularly vulnerable to climate change (e.g. rising sea temperatures that affect the behaviour of their prey) and to human activities in the coastal zone.
This project aims to assess and monitor the marine mammal populations in the territorial waters of Singapore. This will be achieved through field studies and the involvement of members of the public by establishing a volunteer network and a robust reporting system, which will supply information on the abundance, distribution and behaviour of marine mammals to a central database. In the longer term, the research team plans to develop this to include information from other geographical regions, accommodating data obtained through field surveys, including photo-identification of individuals, behavioural observations and data on prey and habitats.
WAZA Conservation Project 11013 is implemented by Elizabeth Ann Taylor from the National University of Singapore, with support provided by Wildlife Reserves Singapore and involvement of the Marine Mammal Research Laboratory, Tropical Marine Science Institute, National University of Singapore.
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