Dolphins are one of the most popular animals in the wild, with their beautiful streamlined bodies, friendly ‘smiley’ faces and intelligent behaviour.
Dolphins are the most abundant and varied of all cetaceans, and can be found in the open ocean, close to the coast in estuaries and in rivers. There are over 40 species of dolphins worldwide.
Dolphins are toothed whales and eat a variety of fish, squid and octopus. Their size varies enormously, from the small Maui or Hector’s dolphin (1.4 metres and 50 kilograms) to the large orca or killer whale, which can be around 9 metres long and weigh over 7.5 tonnes.
Dolphins are social creatures that live in pods of up to 12 individuals; however pods can be larger where there is abundant food.
Dolphins in NSW
Bottlenose dolphins are a relatively common site along the entire NSW coastline. This species’ dark grey back and light grey belly colouring acts as camouflage and helps protect them from attacks by their natural enemies – killer whales and sharks. They can often be seen in bays and estuaries opening to the sea, and also “surfing” in waves as they are forming and breaking.
Two of the best places to see dolphins are Jervis Bay on the NSW South Coast, and Port Stephens on the NSW Mid North Coast.
To help protect dolphins it is important to keep the environment clean. Rubbish and plastic waste that ends up in the water can impact negatively on dolphins, which become entangled or swallow the rubbish mistaking it as food. Dolphins can sometimes strand, either alone or in groups.
If you find a beached dolphin, keep it wet and cool, and call the ORRCA 24 hour rescue line: 02 9415 3333.