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In-water encounters of humans with wild marine mammals

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The swimBLOG shows news from own recent research activities on in-water encounters with wild marine mammals. You will also get detailed impressions on swimming with wild short-finned pilot whales ...here... or you might check the video library (...here...).

Recent update: 16.07.14


Grey seals

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(16.07.14) Own recent research on in-water encounters of human swimmers with grey seals revealed that seals self-initiated a variety of interactive behaviors. See the following videos for some typical approaches.


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Click ...here... to see an in-water encounter of a
grey seal with a human swimmer from underwater
(.mov file with 13.4 MB)


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Click ...here... to see an in-water encounter of a
grey seal with a human swimmer from underwater
(.mov file with 12.5 MB)


Amazon botos

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(14.03.14) In a collaborative effort, researchers from Brazil (Luiz Cláudio Pinto de Sá Alves, Alexandre de Freitas Azevedo and Artur Andriolo) and Germany (Fabian Ritter and Michael Scheer) currently catalogue self-initiated behaviors of two cetacean species. Next to interactive behaviors of short-finned pilot whales addressed towards human swimmers, this study will describe for the first time self-intiated behaviors of food-provisioned Amazon botos which occur during interactions with human feeders (...here...).


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Click ...here... to see a woman hand-feeding a boto.
She is being bitten during the course of the encounter
(.mov file with 14.9 MB).
(Video: Luiz Alves)


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Click ...here... to see a single boto begging for fish-handouts. The animal lifts its head and whole body vertically out of the water several times (.mov file with 9.6 MB).
(Video: Luiz Alves)


Seals

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(28.06.13) Seals self-initiate a variety of interactive behaviors during in-water encounters with human swimmers. These are ranging from simple curious approaches to direct body contacts. While most behaviors are explorative and apparantly affiliative, during some encounters aggressive behaviors (e.g. biting) have been reported as well.


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Click ...here... to see an in-water encounter of
seals with a human swimmer (.mov file with 14.3 MB)


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Click ...here... to see an in-water encounter of
seals with a human swimmer (.mov file with 7.9 MB)


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Click ...here... to see an in-water encounter of
seals with a human swimmer (.mov file with 13.1 MB)



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(10.03.13) Seals (here: grey seals Halichoerus grypus) are regularly encountered by humans. In contrast to whales and dolphins, seals are vulnerable to anthropogenic impacts at terrestrial haul-out sites and in their aquatic home ranges.


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Click ...here... to see grey seal pup behavior while a plane
is passing at close distance (.mov file with 8.2 MB)



Pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins

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(06.12.12) In many regions where whale watching with wild cetaceans has been established, pilot whales are some of the local target species. At some places, these species can be encountered during wild swim programs.



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Click ...here... to see a large pilot
whale group (.mov file with 18.2 MB)
(Video: Fabian Ritter)


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Click ...here... to see human snorkelers swimming
with a large pilot whale group (.mov file with 10.4 MB)
(Video: Roland Gockel)


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Click ...here... to see a human swimmer approaching
a pilot whale underwater (.mov file with 9.9 MB)
(Video: Roland Gockel)


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(06.12.12) In many regions where whale watching with wild cetaceans has been established, bottlenose dolphins are some of the local target species. At some places, these species can be encountered during wild swim programs.


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Click ...here... to see a group of bottlenose dolphins
approaching a human swimmer (.mov file with 15 MB)
(Video: Fabian Ritter)


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Click ...here... to see a group of bottlenose dolphins
interacting with a human swimmer (.mov file with 12.3 MB)
(Video: Roland Gockel)


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(06.12.12) Mostly unexpected, you'll find Atlantic spotted dolphins riding the bow of your vessel.


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Click ...here... to have a spectacular perspective on Atlantic
spotted dolphins during bowriding (.mov file with 14.3 MB)
(Video: Roland Gockel)


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Click ...here... to see Atlantic spotted dolphins
during bowriding (.mov file with 9.4 MB)
(Underwater video: Roland Gockel)


About

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Encounters of humans with free-ranging marine mammals have quantitatively increased worldwide, mainly in the context of commercial whale watching activities. In addition to observations of free-ranging animals from land, air or boat, for many humans it has become a life-dream to encounter a whale, dolphin or pinniped directly in its natural habitat and during swim encounters. Next to short-finned pilot whales (...here...) more than 20 free-ranging whale and dolphin species were reported to be encountered by human swimmers, snorkelers, divers and waders.


Foto As for short-finned pilot whales (...here...), cetacean individuals or groups self-initiate a variety of behaviors which they address towards humans. Own research showed (...here...) that these behaviors can be affiliative, aggressive-threatening and sexual in nature. Though most interactive behaviors were affiliative, food-provisioned and solitary dolphins were reported to self-initiate -next to affiliative- aggressive-threatening and even sexual behaviors. It is believed that these behaviors are responses to inappropriate human behaviors.



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During in-water encounters swimmers can further interact -next to food-provisioned and solitary dolphins- with cetaceans which are unhabituated to human contact. Though these animals might encounter humans infrequently or even more regularly, unhabituated whales and dolphins still show disturbance reactions in response to swimmers. Both, habituated and unhabituated cetaceans, have not been reported to put swimmers at health risk so far.