Dolphins Attack on Harbour Porpoise remains a mystery!

Dolphins attacking harbour Porpoise by Sarah Perry

Dolphins attacking harbour Porpoise by Sarah Perry

Dolphin attacking harbour Porpoise by Steve Hartley

Dolphin attacking harbour Porpoise by Steve Hartley

The Wildlife Trust Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre marine team were on a  four hour dolphin survey with Dolphin Survey Boat Trips when they witnessed the attack. They were amazed to observe and document a group of seven bottlenose dolphins acting aggressively towards a young harbour porpoise.

Sarah Perry, Wildlife Trust Living Seas Science Officer said “For decades we have known that bottlenose dolphins attack harbour porpoises, an act known as porpicide, a behaviour that has been documented around the world however, the reasons for these attacks remains poorly understood. Various theories have been proposed including prey competition, object-orientated play, practicing infanticide and heightened aggression in male bottlenose dolphins. Interestingly this isn’t the first time we have observed this behaviour in the Cardigan Bay bottlenose dolphins; in 2014 we observed this behaviour first hand on four separate occasions”.

During the latest encounter the Cardigan Bay Marine team photographed the dolphins involved, observed and documented their behaviour. At least two of the dolphins were males, two were females and there were two young dolphins in the group, including one with faint foetal folds still visible suggesting it is less than one year old.

Sarah continued to say “Although slightly distressing, observing aggressive behaviour such as this is fascinating to both members of the public and researchers alike. Most days I am left in awe of the dolphin’s power and stealth like hunting abilities, their behaviours and social systems are complex and encounters with these animals never fail to amaze me. There is no doubt that the bottlenose dolphins of Cardigan Bay are an inspiration to everyone that is lucky enough to catch a glimpse of them as they go about their daily lives, myself included.”

Encounters such as this demonstrate we have much still to learn about these enigmatic creatures and it’s vitally important that we all make efforts to conserve our seas and the marine environment for future generations to enjoy and be inspired by.

Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre and gift shop is located on the sea front in the heart of New Quay overlooking the beach and harbour. Here visitors can meet our dedicated Living Seas volunteers, participate in seasonal events, find out about local marine wildlife or join our researchers on a Dolphin Survey Boat Trip.

For further information on vital research work carried out by The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales or Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre please visit www.welshwildlife.org or www.cbmwc.org

The video of dolphins attacking the harbour Porpoise can be found here.