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Dolphin Q&As

Olivia, a Wildlife Watcher from South Wales, tells us all about dolphins! Olivia is 13 years old, and wants to be a marine mammologist when she grows up!

What are dolphins and why are they important?

A common misconception about dolphins is that they are fish, but the truth is very different-they are mammals, like us, which means they have to surface to breathe air and don't extract oxygen from the water like fish. Unlike us, however, they are conscious breathers, meaning they have to remember to breathe! Dolphins are extremely important in the food chain, as they play a part in keeping down the population of various species of fish. 

Can I see wild dolphins? 
Bottlenose dolphins breaching

Although usually not thought of as an animal native to Britain, dolphins are probably more abundant in UK waters than you think! Cardigan Bay in Wales is home to Britain's largest pod of dolphins, and dolphins also frequent Cornwall in England. Short-beaked common dolphins are often seen in Irish waters, and bottlenose dolphins that swim around the Scottish coast are unique due to the fact that they have special fat reserves to protect them from the cold! 

Local marine and wildlife protection charities will be able to tell you the best places near you to see dolphins. Be sure to never harass or feed wild dolphins. 

Common dolphins breaching
Are there different types of dolphin? 

Yes! Did you know that the orca, or killer whale, is actually the largest species of dolphin? Or that the world's smallest dolphin is the Maui's dolphin, at a maximum of only 1.7 metres long? Dolphin species are incredibly diverse, from the universally loved bottlenose to the bizarre Amazon River dolphin, which is pink in colour! Dolphins common in British waters include Risso's dolphins and Striped dolphins. 

Are dolphins threatened in the wild? 

Although most dolphins are not yet classed as ‘endangered' in the wild, some species are threatened greatly by human activity. Dolphins can be negatively affected by pollution, lack of food from overfishing, and bycatch, which means being accidentally caught in a fishing net. 

What can I do to help wild dolphins? 

To help wild dolphins, you can reduce plastic pollution (the Wildlife Trusts have some great tips to help you with this on their website), buy fish that is labelled as sustainable or dolphin safe, and raise awareness among family and friends. 
Additionally, you can support charities that help dolphins in the wild by holding a bake sale, sponsored event or other fundraiser, or symbolically adopt a dolphin.

Image credits, top to bottom: ©John MacPherson/2020VISION©Elanor Stone