Animal-human interactions can be explored through our fascination of wildlife. Studies of wild animals ways of communication inspire us, from howling wolves, singing birds, deep infrasonic elephant signals and marine mammal acoustics below water. Many more examples exist but all of them are keys of fascination for the variety of communication patterns that exist.
Whales have through the times had great impact on human societies and caused much wonder on how these giant creatures live in the vast habitats of the oceans. Several species have been hunted to extinction and many are still endangered due to either continued hunting, pollution or reduced feeding options caused by human impact. Still the whale species continue to intrigue us with the many unknowns of their behaviour, migration patterns and skills of communication. Especially the different communication strategies whales use have been subject to a range of studies and broad general interest. Perhaps this is also the reason why the majority of studies on communication have been done with marine mammals.
Marine mammals use sound to communicate over long and short distances. Communication over long distances is usually associated with reproduction, territoriality, and maintenance of group structure. Communication over short distances is used in social interactions involving aggression, individual identification, and to maintain mother-offspring contact. Most marine mammals use sound to regain contact when members of a group are separated. Knowledge from studies on marine mammal communication strategies are providing better tools to avoid these animals get caught in fishing gear or nets. Human impacts on marine animals include entanglements in open-ocean and coastal fisheries, interactions with aquaculture facilities, and ship strike.
Acoustic studies of marine mammals provided background knowledge for acoustic devices that are now in some places being employed as a tool to reduce risk and decrease these human impacts.
Read more below on subjects within marine communication and acoustics, marine mammal migratory behavior or general biology of marine mammals.
Humpback Whale Song and Foraging Behavior on an Antarctic Feeding Ground.
Stimpert A.K., Peavey L.E., Friedlaender A.S., Nowacek D.P. (2012). Humpback Whale Song and Foraging Behavior on an Antarctic Feeding Ground. PLoS ONE 7(12): e51214. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0051214
Straight as an arrow: humpback whales swim constant course tracks during long-distance migration.
Horton, T.W., Holdaway, R. N., Zerbini, A. N., Hauser, N., Garrigue,C., Andriolo, A. and Clapham, P. J.(2011). Straight as an arrow: humpback whales swim constant course tracks during long-distance migration. Biology Letters. 7 (5). pp 674-679; doi:10.1098/rsbl.2011.0279 1744-957X
Below we present you with options of where you can get your own experiences with connecting to wildlife or to become inspired by projects working on creating more balanced and sustainable interactions between humans and wildlife.
A place where visitors can get close to and swim with humpback whales in a sustainable regulated way is in the Sanctuary of Marine Mammals in The Dominican Republic. Humpback whales pass by this area during winter when they gather to calve and mate. A limited number of visitors are allowed in the water per season. This is regulated to avoid stressful impacts on the animals. Visitors are allowed in the water while floating quietly in short time intervals. Encounters between whales and humans occur on initiative from the whales if they choose to approach visitors.
Tourism in the marine national park serves to support both marine wildlife and the preservation of the park environment. Visitors moreover contribute to marine research through collecting data material (e.g. photo ID) on the whales. Last, the project also encourages “citizen scientists” to follow their own line of research that increase and spread awareness on this species.
The Dominican Republic
For more information on how to visit the Sanctuary of Marine Mammals in The Dominican Republicfollow below link.
Wilderness Inspire has in collaboration with Arctic Friend developed this Arctic adventure. We invite you to explore Greenland as a citizen scientist on a journey where you will get unique nature experiences in combination with a deepened understanding of the climate and wildlife of Greenland.
Another opportunity to experience marine wildlife in a sustainable way that supports both the conservation and research of the species, is in Mozambique in Ponta do Ouro at the Dolphin research centre. You can find more information on how to visit, volunteer or contribute from their website and Facebook site below.
South Africa has long been a role model within ecotourism that also involves citizen science where tourists or locals can support research and participate in projects on short or longer time scales.
Blue Wilderness supports conservation of sharks and creates inspiring outreach to promote awareness on these beautiful animals.