At the beginning of November 2010, HEPCA office received a call from the owner of 3 Turtles Dive Centre in Safaga reporting the sighting of a dolphin with a rope around the tail, spotted alone in the shallow waters of Tobia Island. Apparently it was not able to properly swim. Luckily, some of the guests could take pictures of the animal underwater and those were provided later on to HEPCA Research Team in order to have a better understanding of the situation.
A new sighting of a dolphin with a rope on the tail was then reported by Barakuda Dive Centre on May 27, 2011. Images show an animal that we think is Cima reported to be swimming close to a trawler probably trying to get some fish from the net.
In July 2011, following a brief discussion on HEPCA Red Sea Dolphin Project facebook pages, new material from a sighting occurred in June 2011 was sent to HEPCA by Mr. Nass Sihgo.
On 25th of September 2011, Cima was spotted again in Safaga, as shown in a video sent to HEPCA office by Sharm El Naga Dive Centre, playing in shallow waters with another dolphin.
The images are not extremely clear, but we could identify this dolphin. It is always the same Indopacific Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops aduncus), a young individual of a length of about 1,50m whose gender is still unknown. Matching with HEPCA Cetacean Catalogues, built from the efforts of the Red Sea Dolphin Project and DolphinWatch, hasn’t revealed any correspondences, indicating that the animal has never been spotted by HEPCA researchers in their study areas, the southern Egyptian Red Sea and Hurghada respectively. We called him/her Cima, which means “rope” in Egyptian Arabic.
How did it happen!? For someone fond of cetacean and their conservation, the fact that a dolphin could carry fishing gears or be victim of entanglements doesn’t come as a surprise. Case studies from elsewhere in the world indicate that fisheries represents a serious threat for most species in certain areas and this kind of phenomena can have a wide range of effects, going from slight nuisance to important and possibly lethal impediment hampering the animal in the correct realization of survival activities, either bringing to a quick death or to slow weakening and starvation that may result in the animal perishing. At first, concerns arose about potential detrimental consequences of the rope, including the possibility that this would have negatively affected swimming and diving and, therefore, travelling and feeding activities as well as possibly determine the onset of an infection due to continuous friction. Moreover, the fact that the animal was spotted alone was considered for a while as a negative sign. And, also, this knot looked suspicious, too tight to be the result of an accidental entanglement..way too “rational” to an extent that we all thought it was handmade..but why? And by whom? Those question are still open.
There was no time to stare and think about possible explanation, the entire community was ready to act: immediately after the very first sighting, a task force was organized by a group of diving centres based in Safaga with the aim of trying to catch the animal and cut the rope which appeared to be very tight around its caudal fin. Despite the risk related to such an operation and mainly regarding the incredible stress imposed to the animal during the catch, it was worthy giving a try as the animal would have never been able to get rid of the rope by itself. The expedition, joined by two HEPCA representative, was unsuccessful as the animal was not spotted that day, nor in the following.
For a while we have lost track of it, reports were not coming anymore, also the friends from Safaga didn’t have any news..We were all fearing the worst. Until the latest good news: Cima was still roaming around.
If its swimming seemed somehow clumsy when first spotted with the rope around the tail, it appears more confident in the video recorded in September 2011 that shows Cima playing in proximity of a boat. Neither infections nor major consequences seems to affect it, however it would be interesting to keep on monitoring the individual. Therefore we call upon the dive community in the area to help us tracking Cima and follow its growth.
If you spot him/her, please contact us!
Data of interest include the location of the sighting (ideally Latitude and Longitude), date and time. Please send us also some images! Besides that, if there is any behavior or event noteworthy, we encourage you to document them or, if you can’t, to get in touch with us to provide a description of what you observed.
We would like to thank you for your support and to applaud the passion and initiative of the dive centres involved in this story. There are more chapters still to write and your contribution is fundamental.