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In almost all countries’ coasts where they occur, Indian Ocean humpback dolphins, are either hunted or accidentally caught and kept and used for food. 

Unfortunately, living so close to lots of people has led to the species becoming endangered and increasingly vulnerable.

Orca illustration
Male Female Calf
Maximum length 9.8m 8.5m 2.4m
Maximum weight 10,000kg 7,500kg 180kg

What do Indian Ocean humpback dolphins look like?

Pretty similar to other species of ‘humpback’ dolphins, with a less distinctive ‘hump’ than their Atlantic cousins, yet a more obvious one than their Indo-Pacific and Australian cousins. All humpback dolphins have a small triangular fin sitting atop the ‘hump’ of varying degrees. Mostly grey in colour these dolphins pay homage to their Latin name ‘plumbea’ meaning ‘lead.’

What’s life like for an Indian Ocean humpback dolphin?

Tough. Although once thought to be widespread throughout their range and present in large groupings, their numbers have declined significantly over the years and only small, localised populations are thought to remain. This decline is a serious concern. Populations simply can’t withstand any further pressure.

What do Indian Ocean humpback dolphins eat?

As with other humpback dolphins, Indian Ocean humpback dolphins prefer nearshore, inter-tidal and estuarine waters. They are opportunistic feeders – meaning they’re not fussy as to what’s for dinner. Mackerel, mullet and sardines are known favourites.

Where do Indian Ocean humpback dolphins live?

As noted, they prefer the shallow, nearshore waters of countries in the Indian Ocean, ideally with a freshwater input. They can be found not far from shore in the coastal waters of South Africa in the south, northwards around the coast of East Africa, throughout the Middle East, and down the west coast of India.

Indian Ocean humpback dolphins have only been recognised as a species in their own right since 2014, yet they are classified as Endangered and their numbers continue to fall.

The threat from shark nets

Between 1980 and 2009, 203 humpback dolphins died in the shark nets off KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.

Life Expectancy
In the Oceans
in captivity
In the Oceans
in captivity
Life Expectancy

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How many orcas are there in the world?

There are tens of thousands of individuals spread throughout the world’s oceans and, taken as a whole, they appear to be doing well. But there is much discussion going on at the moment about whether there are in fact several species or sub-species or orcas.

Some orca populations show differences in their genetic make-up and behaviour that make them quite distinct from each other. Some of these distinct populations are faring better than others, with a few populations having experienced a decline of 30% or more, which would lead to them being treated as endangered. But until agreement has been reached on these possible different orca species, their official IUCN status is ‘Data Deficient’.

Do all orcas speak the same language?

Talking in clicks and squeaks, each pod has its own distinctive dialect – similar to regional accents. But orcas from different areas of the world can have languages as different as French is from Cantonese.

Are these whales killers?

Orcas are also known as killer whales, but this name is misleading. These marine mammals are not mindless killers, but highly intelligent predators hunting in co-ordinated raids. They care for old and sick individuals in their pod. And they are actually the largest member of the dolphin family.

<Link? What’s the difference between whales and dolphins?>

Indian Ocean humpback dolphins need your help

The main threats...

  • Stop hunting – whether used opportunistically as a result of bycatch, or the victims of directed hunts, the Indian Ocean humpback dolphin is under serious threat.
  • Entanglement in fishing gear – their preference for nearshore waters brings them into close contact with a variety of fishing gears.

You can help save Indian Ocean humpback dolphins...

By supporting WDC, you can help Indian Ocean humpback dolphins to live safe and free. Together we can:

Please help us save Indian Ocean humpback dolphins

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