Dolphin carcass found at East Coast Park: Other sightings of the mammals in Singapore

Wild dolphins spotted in the waters of Singapore in 2014.
Wild dolphins spotted in the waters of Singapore in 2014.PHOTO: CON FOLEY
The carcass of an Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphin, also known as the pink dolphin, found on the beach at East Coast Park on July 6, 2016.
The carcass of an Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphin, also known as the pink dolphin, found on the beach at East Coast Park on July 6, 2016.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - A dolphin carcass was washed ashore along East Coast Park on Wednesday (July 6).

Surprising as it may sound, dolphins are not uncommon in Singapore's waters.

Here are five things about dolphin sightings here:

1. How common are dolphin sightings in Singapore?


In sightings reported to the National University of Singapore's Tropical Marine Science Institute (TMSI), at least 169 dolphins were spotted between 2008 and 2011 in the waters between Singapore and Batam, near St John's Island and Pulau Semakau, and as close to shore as the Marina Barrage.

At least another 50 of the mammals were sighted in 2012 - the most recent year that proper records were kept before TMSI's work was cut short when the conservation arm of Wildlife Reserves Singapore stopped funding a three-year study.

Sporadic reports of sightings have continued since then.

2. Where can you find them?

The mammals are most regularly spotted in the north-facing bay between St John's and Lazarus islands, which lie to the south of Sentosa.

The waters there are calm, even during monsoon rains, and there are fishes at the nearby coral reefs, attracting dolphins to the area for food and rest.

A YouTube video posted by user Deon George Harison in 2013 appeared to show at least two of the mesmerising creatures gliding through the waters between Changi Naval Base and Batam.

3. What are the most common species found here?

The Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphin - also known as a pink dolphin - and the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin, are the two most commonly seen species in Singapore.

4. What are the characteristics of these two species of dolphins?

A pink dolphin performing during a show at the Underwater World Singapore. PHOTO: ST FILE

  • Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphin
    • Born black, it turns pink as it grows up. Adults are white. 
    • Medium-sized dolphin that ranges in length from 2m to 2.8m and between 150kg and 200kg in weight.
    • Gentle, highly endangered mammals that usually travel in small groups of three to eight, and are more shy than other species of dolphins.
    • All humpbacked dolphins have a distinctive motion when surfacing, surfacing at up to a 45 degree angle with the rostrum, and sometimes the full head, which it shows before arching its back.

    Bottlenose dolphins at Dolphin Island at Resorts World Sentosa. PHOTO: ST FILE

  • Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin
    • A dark grey back with a lighter grey belly, it grows to 2.6m and weigh up to 230 kg.
    • Generally smaller than the common bottlenose dolphin, it has a proportionately longer rostrum, and has spots on its belly and lower sides.
    • It has more teeth than the common bottlenose dolphin - 23 to 29 teeth on each side of each jaw compared to 21 to 24 for the common bottlenose dolphin.
    • For an up-close look at this species, one can head to Dolphin Island at Resorts World Sentosa, where 27 of the mammals from the Solomon Islands splash about in interconnecting lagoons.

5. Is this the first time a dolphin carcass has been washed ashore?

Carcass of a dolphin along the beach at Labrador Park in Pasir Panjang in 2008. PHOTO: SHIN MIN DAILY NEWS

  • In May 2006, a badly decomposed carcass of a female pink dolphin was washed up on the rocky shore in Marina South. The 1.8m-long creature was likely to have been killed by the propellers of a passing vessel, as it had deep gashes along its flanks.
  • Washed up dolphin carcasses were also found on Labrador beach in the west in 2005 and 2008.
  • In July 2014, a "large boulder" which turned out to be a 1.8m-long dead dolphin was discovered by a family at East Coast Park. A decomposed dolphin carcass was also found at the park earlier that week.