Around 18 pilot whales and 34 Fraser’s dolphins were seen thriving in Puerto Princesa Bay. (Photo courtesy of Rommel Cruz)

Environmental enthusiasts recorded fresh sightings of a small pod of short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) in Puerto Princesa Bay on Saturday.

 Dr. Teri Aquino, the marine mammal specialist, said they sighted about 18 pilot whales and 34 Fraser’s dolphins (Lagenodelphis hosei) during the planned weekend trip, organized by a group of hobbyists and environment enthusiasts.

The team went out early Saturday morning, around 8 a.m., in Puerto Princesa Bay to check for the presence of marine mammals.

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(Photo courtesy of Rommel Cruz)

“Short-finned pilot whales and other cetaceans have been seen in Puerto bay before. The waters are rich in their prey of choice. In the case of pilots, it would be squid,” Dr. Aquino said.

Pilot whales, which have black to dark gray or brown skin, are distinct compared to other cetaceans with their bulbous head and a broad sickle-shaped dorsal fin.

According to a 2006 report published in the Journal of Cetacean Research and Management, marine mammals were generally found in the eastern Sulu Sea with cooler tropical waters.

In Puerto Princesa, previous reports and surveys reported 11 species and subspecies of cetaceans in Puerto Princesa Bay, which were the centerpiece of the dolphin-watching tour during the peak of travel season.

Short-finned pilot whales mature at around ten years of age with a maximum lifespan of 45 years for males and 60 years for females.

Categorized as highly social animals, the pilot whales have often seen swimming and playing with other marine mammals in a usual pod of 15 to 30 close family relatives.

“You can ensure good interaction with cetaceans by knowing their behavior. For example, if they’re feeding, you need to keep your distance until they show signs of wanting to interact. There’s a joint memo of the DOT, DENR, DA, and DILG that prescribes the proper way of engaging with marine wildlife for tourism purposes,” Dr. Aquino added.

Rommel Cruz, the owner of Wild Expeditions Palawan, who was also part of the group, said the coronavirus pandemic, which restricted travel and movement for many, has created an upside situation for most wildlife.

He said they also observed Fraser’s dolphins, sea turtles, dugong (sea cows), tuna, and terns (seabirds) during the trip.

“[It] is a glimpse of the rich marine life of the city and how these creatures are benefiting from the current situation. Sometimes the new normal is not that bad at all for most wildlife,” Cruz said.

In 2008, the short-finned pilot whale was listed on the IUCN Red List as Data Deficient and remained data-poor in much of its range.

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is a desk editor and senior reporter of Palawan News. He covers politics, environment, tourism, justice, and sports. In his free time, he enjoys long walks with his dog, Bayani.