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For the past 25 years, WDC's Adopt a Dolphin programme has support vital conservation of the bottlenose dolphins in the Moray Firth, Scotland.

WDC has a member of staff (Charlie Phillips, Field Officer) based in North Kessock near Inverness and who has for over two decades been involved with marine mammal interpretation, Photo ID collaboration work with Aberdeen University (a co-author in “Integrating multiple data sources to assess the distribution and abundance of bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus in Scottish waters” Mammal Review ISSN 0305-1838).

Charlie also figureheads the WDC “Adopt a Dolphin” project, gathering photos, video and information on the 6 local dolphins that the public can adopt to fundraise for the charity and also engages in general field work including media interviews, expert advisory roles in a variety of TV programmes plus monitoring and attending cetacean strandings as he is, like many members of WDC staff, a trained Marine Mammal Medic with British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR).

Charlie also liaises with WDC’s Citizen Science project “Shorewatch” which has trained volunteer watchers around the Scottish Coast doing “On effort” watches and gathering valuable sightings data which is overseen by members of staff Katie Dyke and Alice Walters who work from the Scottish Dolphin Centre – WDC’S flagship visitor centre in the Moray Firth coastal village of Spey Bay.

The Northern Resident community consists of nearly 300 orcas including WDC’s Adoption orcas Holly, Simoom, Fife and Bend. These majestic whales roam a huge area which stretches from South East Alaska all the way down to Vancouver Island but every summer they return to their core area of Johnstone Strait and Blackfish Sound and spend the long days chasing huge Chinook salmon or just resting and socialising with family members and other pods.

Johnstone Strait is also home to the famous ‘rubbing beaches’, a magical place where the orcas come to rub their bodies on the smooth pebbles. This unique behaviour is a cultural tradition of the Northern Residents and the remote camera network captures extraordinary images of the orcas - both above and below the surface - as they effortlessly glide through the shallows. Underwater footage from the rubbing beaches has given OrcaLab a strong hint that some of the females are pregnant – including WDC’s very own adoption orca, Holly.

Orcalab facts

  • World’s longest running wild orca project.
  • Over 300 orcas identified.
  • Uses non-invasive techniques including photo-identification and hydrophones.
  • Supported through WDC’s Adopt an Orca project.
  • The brother and sister of Corky, an orca held at SeaWorld, roams these waters.

OrcaLab also plays an important role in wider conservation issues on an international scale. Campaigning to end the dismal era of commercial whaling, preservation of the orcas’ ecosystem and the release and rehabilitation of captive cetaceans, especially Corky, are just some of the pressing issues that still require a voice. Corky was just a baby when she was brutally taken from her family, the A5 pod, in 1969 - she has languished in a concrete tank at SeaWorld San Diego ever since. Unlike Corky, her brother and sister, Adoption orca Fife and Ripple, still swim wild and free in the ocean today.

Orca spyhop

Find out more about orcas

Visit our species guide to learn more about this species.


Fate of captive orcas

Find out about why orcas are so unsuitable for a life in captivity.

To listen and watch orcas - highlights and in real time - please visit: or

Help protect whales and dolphins and their homes

By adopting a whale or dolphin, by making a donation, or by fundraising for WDC, you can help us save these amazing creatures.

Orca - Rob Lott


Adopt a whale and follow the lives of these amazing creatures.

Bottlenose dolphins leaping


Your gifts help us take action to protect their homes.

Humpback whale spyhop


Run, bake, walk, cycle… what could you do to help?