- Three very rare humpback dolphins were spotted at False Bay beach.
- The estimated total population in South Africa of the Atlantic humpback dolphins is between 250 and 500.
- Meanwhile a pod of killer whales also surfaced in the area in search of food.
Three rare humpback dolphins have been spotted along the False Bay coast, causing quite a stir in the area.
Skipper and owner of the Simon's Town Boat Company Dave Hurwitz said the dolphins were very rare in South Africa, especially in False Bay.
"These are endangered animals and the estimated total population in South Africa of the Atlantic humpback dolphins is between 250 and 500," he told News24.
The dolphins are called humpback because of the distinctive hump on their backs, with a small dorsal fin on top of the hump.
"One would always find scars on these specific dolphins because they are often attacked by sharks," Hurwitz added.
Since the sighting last week, it had since been established that one of the three humpback dolphins was familiar to the area and had been sighted between Muizenberg and Kleinbaai (Gansbaai) several times.
"It unfortunately has a broken rostrum (nose). This is not unusual for humpback dolphins and generally does not affect their ability to feed. The other two dolphins are exciting new sightings and will be added to the national database," Hurwitz added.
According to Hurwitz, the animals were seen on Friday morning just past Fish Hoek and it's thought they may frequent the bay area.
South African National Parks (SANParks) marine biologist Alison Kock confirmed that, recently, False Bay and the Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area (TMNP-MPA) had been home to an incredible diversity of whales and dolphins.
"We are seeing southern right and humpback whales, Brydes whales, killer whales, common dolphins, and the very exciting recent sighting of the endangered humpback dolphins," she said.
Kock said Indian Ocean humpback dolphins were classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as endangered because the population was extremely small, with fewer than 500 dolphins remaining, and declining.
"There are several threats facing the population, including disturbance from human activities, pollution, and changing environmental conditions like water temperatures affecting prey distribution," Kock added.
"We ask that people respect their presence and keep their distance and abide by the regulations if encountering them on the water," said Kock.
SANParks said there was a small pod of humpback dolphins in False Bay, but they were very elusive and rarely seen. They also rarely visited the western side of False Bay, so the sighting inside the TMNP-MPA was very unusual, he said.
Kock added that the dolphins were "very shy and thus rarely seen".
Director of Sea Search and Research Associate with Stellenbosch University Simon Elwen told News24 that in South Africa humpback dolphins were the only endangered marine mammal.
"Each dolphin has its own 'signature whistle' - which is effectively a name they use when socialising and contacting each other by deploying a set of hydrophones or underwater microphones for a few weeks at a time... we can record these whistles as the dolphins swim past... for 24 hours a day for weeks on end; it's quite fascinating," he said.
Hurwitz, in turn, said in his 30 years at sea, he still enjoyed every minute of experiencing first-hand encounters.
"I wouldn't change my job for anything else in the world. I have an absolute love for all marine fauna, especially killer whales and just last week Sunday a pod of seven orcas was spotted in the False Bay region possibly looking for their next meal. These creatures fascinate me," he said.
"The last time we've seen humpback dolphins was back in 2012 when there were about seven of them swimming off Strandfontein Pavilion. I just hope that these three dolphins are not the last of that pod," he said.