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Whales and dolphins in Question

Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises

In Defense of Dolphins: The New Moral Frontier

On the Trail of the Whale

Wild Blue

In the presence of high beings: what dolphins want you to know

Whales, Dolphins, and Other Marine Mammals of the World (Princeton Field Guides)

The Cove

Big Miracle

Whale Warrior







Whales and dolphins in Question


Author: James G. Mead, Joy P. Gold
Publisher: Smithsonian Institution Press
Year of publish: 2002
ISBN no.: 1-56-098980-7
No. of pages: 200
Language: English

Book Review:
As suggested by the title this book is composed of a lot of questions about whales and dolphins. The authors use over 100 frequently asked questions to illustrate correct information about cetaceans. In addition to the invaluable and colourful photos, this book is just like an encyclopaedia of cetaceans! This book is suitable for both academics in the field and interested novice.

There are several sections in the book, including “Whale and Dolphin Facts”, “Whale Evolution and Diversity” and “Whales and Humans”. The first section contains the most questions, including fundamental ones like “What are whales?”, “What are the differences between whales, dolphins and porpoises?” and intriguing ones like “Why do Dolphins and porpoises seem to smile?”, “Do whales sink ships?” and “How do narwhals use their tusks?” etc. The second section about evolution has questions about the cetacean evolution and taxonomy. The third one contains questions about the relationship between whales and us, like “Do whales attack people?”, “Do dolphins save people from drowning?” and “How are cetaceans protected?” etc.

The appendices of the book are also resourceful. Appendix 1 introduces common name, scientific name and classification of every cetacean species; appendix 2 lists some FAQs about the marine mammal science career, which does give those who are seeking this career some insight; while appendix 3 lists sources of additional information on cetaceans, including literature. There is a glossary as well so readers can check on specific terms.

If you would like to purchase this book, you might order it from online bookstores (like Amazon).


Whales, Dolphins & Porpoises


Author: Mark Carwardine, Erich Hoyt, R. Ewan Fordyce, Peter Gill
Publisher: Reader's Digest (Australia) Pty Limited
Year of publish: 1998
ISBN no.: 0-86449-096-8
No. of pages: 288 (in hardcover)
Language: English

Book Review:
If you want to grasp the basic knowledge of cetaceans all over the world, this is probably the book you would like to start with. This book contains most of the must-know information of cetaceans. It introduces how whales, dolphins and porpoises are classified. It contains a chapter on the threats cetaceans have been facing and what international actions are being taken to better protect them. It also touches on the controversial issue of captivity. This is followed by a chapter on the special body design of cetaceans for living underwater. The social life and behaviour of cetaceans are also described in rather good details.

Watching cetaceans in the wild is a fascinating activity. This book tells you what should be borne in mind before heading for dolphin or whale watching. Being able to identify the species you encounter in the wild is important and yet challenging. This book spends a chapter unfolding the techniques on how to identify cetaceans in the field. Illustrated with beautifully taken photos, there is a chapter in the book that briefly describe all the cetacean species identified so far. It also introduces 30 special areas in different parts of the world (including Hong Kong) where you can find cetaceans in the wild.

Last but not least, it provides a resource directory at the end for those who would like to further explore the world of cetacean.


The Cove


“The Cove”, a documentary initiated by SaveJapanDolphins.org is shown in many places all over the world, including Japan. The DVD is now available in Hong Kong at HMV.
This documentary features how dolphins are brutally driven to a small cove in the infamous village of Taiji in Japan to be mass slaughtered, while the young and strong ones are handpicked for sale to aquariums at high price.
Currently, over 20,000 of these animals are killed in Japan every year. The species targeted by these hunts include Dall's porpoises, Risso's dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, short-finned pilot whales, striped dolphins, spotted dolphins, false killer whales and Baird's beaked whales. In the last 20 years, over 400,000 small cetaceans have been killed in Japanese waters.
Congratulations to the Cove for winning the Oscar Best Documentary Award on 8 March 2010! Hope that this award can help to stop the dolphin slaughter!

Website of SaveJapanDolphins.org:SaveJapanDolphins.org


In Defense of Dolphins: The New Moral Frontier


Author: Thomas I. White
Publisher: Blackwell Publishing
Year of publish: 2007
ISBN no.: 978-1-4051-5779-7
No. of pages: 229
Language: English

This book covers facts that support our defense for dolphins – from the misleading nature of their “smile”, to their altruistic temperament, their intelligence, their self-consciousness, their emotions and our ethical responsibility to treat them as our equivalent. If you love dolphins and want to get hold of more justifications to voice out for them, this is the book for you.

Here are some selected quotes from the book:

The dolphin “smile”

“All references to the dolphin's famous “smile”, then, are mistaken and misleading. This is not a sign of a good mood and a pleasant disposition, it is a design dictated by hydrodynamics. A spontaneous display of teeth is not a “toothy grin”, but more likely aggressive or sexual behavior.”

Altruistic Temperament

“Dolphins also are very much aware of the danger that other dolphins face if they lose consciousness, and they'll often try to help other dolphins who might pass out. They may jostle them to keep them awake and hold them against the surface so that they can breathe. In fact, this behavior is so strongly ingrained in them that it may be part of what underlies the many stories of dolphins coming to the aid of distressed human swimmers.”


“Dolphin fishing strategies can be so varied and complex that it's hard to explain them away as unthinking responses to appropriate stimuli. The dolphins just move along repeating the strategy, getting food with surprisingly little effort. They also employ a highly cooperative feeding strategy. Even while the feeding is going on, the dolphins take turns at different roles. Some eat while others keep the fish contained. In each case, the dolphins have solved a fundamental problem of how to get food with an effective strategy that is tailored to the peculiarities of the situation. Whether they somehow stumbled upon these tactics by accident or reasoned their way to them, the complexity of these fishing practices argues for the idea that choice is involved.”


“All animals can feel fear and physical pain, for example. But only self-conscious animals, in addition to experiencing the pain, can take a mental step back and reflect on what's happening to them. Only self-conscious animals, in addition to feeling fear, can reflect on the fact that they are experiencing such an emotion. Self-consciousness creates a kind of “mental space” in which we can analyze our experiences – as they happen, or after they've taken place.”


“Virtually, all mammals probably have emotions. It would be surprising, then, if dolphins did not have emotions. Like humans, dolphins have a limbic system. Adding the fact that dolphins are self-aware greatly increases the likelihood that they consciously experience emotional states.”

Cognitive ability

“Grover was approached by two adults and one baby bottlenose. The baby had a large fishing hook stuck into its tail about a foot ahead of its tail fluke. Also monofilament fishing line attached to the hook was wrapped around the dolphin and was cutting into the tail fluke area. “I suddenly felt that I was being asked for help…” Grover steadied the baby on the ocean floor and used his diving knife to remove the hook. The two adults observed the entire procedure. After the hook came out, Grover reports “The largest dolphin came to me, stopped at eye level, and looked into my eyes behind the mask. For a brief moment, we looked deeply into each other's eyes, and then the dolphin nudged me with its snout, pushing me slightly back.”

“A strange adult dolphin who was clearly in trouble came into the shallows at Monkey Mia and approached him. She had a large fishing hook lodged in her mouth. This dolphin, unaccustomed to human contact, had permitted Wilf to remove the hook with a pair of pliers. This is all the more remarkable because it must have hurt like hell to have the hook dislodged, yet she somehow understood that Wilf was helping her, that the pain was ultimately necessary, and that she would be better off in the long run if she tolerated it.”

“These dolphins involved in these incidents most likely had observed humans often enough to understand that a human could use hands and tools to help in this situation. Such a request could hardly be accidental or the result of conditioning. The most likely explanation, then, is that it was the product of thinking about the problem and a conscious decision to pursue this particular solution.”

“The dolphins involved need to be able to reflect on the contents of their consciousness, to handle abstract notions well enough to grasp the causal structure of their environment, and to understand a problem and then to create something novel – either an original behavior or a new strategy – as a solution. In addition, these dolphins had to have enough curiosity, interest or self-motivation to discover the solutions to the problems they were presented with. That is, the behaviors described above show that these dolphins had not only the appropriate cognitive capacities, but the inclination to use them when presented with novel problems. In brief, these experiments and stories imply that these dolphins not only can think, but do think on a regular basis.”

Ethics - Points for us to think carefully

“So if dolphins have the same advanced cognitive abilities that we do, most people would agree that we would need to rethink how we treat them. Do dolphins' brain give them the abilities that matter? Yes. Do humans, as a result, need to change how they treat dolphins? Yes.”

“The dolphins are a “who”, not a “what” – that is, that they experience life in a way that approximates ours. They probably experience themselves as individual beings who feel pain as we do. That is, they know who they are, they suffer both physically and emotionally, and they may even experience pain associated with unhappy events remembered from the past or feared in the future. As beings of this sort, dolphins would therefore seem to be entitled to “moral standing” for the same reasons that humans are. From an ethical perspective, they would seem to share with us the right to some kind of special status and protections.”

“On planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much, while all that dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were more intelligent than man - for precisely the same reasons.”

“… dolphins have behaved towards humans for the two thousand years of our recorded contact.  Normally, they are nonaggressive – even in the face of provocation.  There are even numerous stories of cetacean helpfulness. … they already behave in a way that suggests they understand what counts as appropriate and respectful treatment of humans.  There is much more of a problem of how we treat them than how they treat us.”

“Humans do not treat members of our own species terribly well, so I have no illusions that humans are suddenly going to treat members of another species appropriately.”

“Humans aren't the only species on earth; we just act like it.”


Big Miracle


It's a touching story on people from all walks of life getting together to save three Grey Whales trapped in ice.  

For those in HK: DVD available from HMV


On the Trail of the Whale


Author: Mark Carwardine

Publisher: Thunder Bay Publishing Co

Year of publish: 1994

ISBN no.: 978-1899074006

No. of pages: 192

Language: English

This book contains 10 amazing adventures of Mark Carwardine, zoologist and cetacean expert, whale watching over the world within a year. 

Selected quotes:

“The fact is that whale watching is addictive. It sneaks up on you and becomes an all-consuming, lifelong passion.”

“On whale watching trips, almost everyone becomes the life and soul of the party.  I've seen grown men and women dance around the deck, break into song, burst into tears, slap one another on the back and do all the things that normal, quiet, unflappable people are not supposed to do.”

“It is sometimes easy to forget that we are uninvited guests in their world and we are privileged to see them.  We do not have a divine right.  In fact, we have a responsibility to cause as little disturbance as possible: whale watching should be an eye-on-hands-off activity and proper respect and etiquette are the most important tools of the trade.”

“If you are already a whale junkie, and you have seen humpbacks, greys, fins or any of the other great whales, I hope the stories that follow will bring back many happy memories.

If you have never had a close encounter with a whale, I hope they will inspire you to get out and meet one.  You will not be disappointed.”

“The golden rule is always to consider the safety and welfare of the whales before attempting to watch them.  Without due care and attention, the noise and movement of boats can be unnecessarily stressful and, of course, there is always the risk of propellers causing serious injury.”

“The golden rule in whale photography is to try and forget the cost of the film and to keep taking pictures.  There are always a great many rejects caused by boat movement and bad timing and, of course, on commercial trip a huge number of otherwise good shots are ruined by the hands, elbows and heads of fellow whale watchers.... The best whale pictures are usually the ones that are not planned... it is a good idea to have a camera ready all the time.”

“Please remember that no picture is more important than the safety and welfare of the whales themselves.”

his book is out of print, but second hand books can still be found on Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk


Wild Blue - A Natural History of the World's Largest Animal


Author: Dan Bortolotti
Publisher: Owl Publishing House
Year of publish: 2010
ISBN no.: 978-986-120-291-4
No. of pages: 329
Language: Chinese (translated version)


The author took a three years' journey in search for answers to the mysteries of Blue Whales. This book contains the bloody history of whaling (including the killing of pregnant whales), detailed description on the secrets of the Big Blue, as well as how human beings affect the fate of the Big Blue.

English version available:

Publisher:  Thomas Dunne Books

Year of Publish: 2008

ISBN:  0312383878

No. of pages:  336 pages


The Whale Warrior


In Canada , a bloody scene occurred on sea ice – a seal hunter was using a sharp tool to beat up a baby seal till death and then strip its skin off on-site. What was left was a badly mauled bodies with unrest eyes… The skin of baby seals would be used to make fur for those materialistic people to wear!

In the Southern Ocean, another bloody scene occurred in the chilly sea – Japanese whale hunters were shooting whales one after another and let them struggle in great pain till death. The dead bodies were uploaded to the ship and cut into pieces. The hunters were pretending that they were conducting scientific researches. Yet, the whale meat was indeed transported back to Japan for Japanese to eat!

This DVD features the stories of Captain Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, in his efforts to protect whales, seals and other marine creatures regardless of dangers, violence, imprisonment, gun shot, etc. He takes actions to prevent marine animals from being harmed and is someone worthy of high respect, although he was considered eco-terrorist. With the efforts of him and his volunteers, commercial whaling was abandoned in 1986. And yet, Japanese are presently still using ‘scientific research' as an excuse to continue whaling for profit, which is really annoying.

Although this DVD is purchased from HMV of Hong Kong, it is of USA version and no subtitle is available. Some of the conversations recorded on-site are quite inaudible. But it's worth watching if you love animals.

Website of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society: http://www.seashepherd.org

Whale war: http://animal.discovery.com/videos/whale-wars/#mkcpgn=emapl


In the presence of high beings ~ What Dolphins want you to know


Author: Bobbie Sandoz-Merrill

Publisher: Bobbie Sandoz-Merrill

Year of publish: 2009

ISBN no.: 1-57178-179-X 

No. of pages: 222

Language: English



The author wrote about her experience with wild dolphins in Hawaii and mentioned dolphin's gifts as well as how these gifts inspire us to live a meaningful life.

Dolphin's gifts:

•  Unfailing friendship and kindness

•  Playful humor and joy

•  Harmony among themselves and others

•  Exalted intelligence used wisely

•  Telepathy serving clarity and truth

•  Mastery and grace woven into all

Inspired by Dolphins: how to make your dream come true?

With these six valuable gifts, we can see clearly what our life's mission and dream are and work hard towards them. Of course, some of our dreams are harder to get. Before these dreams come true, we need to be patient, let ourselves relax occasionally and remain positive. When our dreams come true one by own, you'll have a feeling of “jump for joy”. This is one of the things the author said that impressed me a lot:

“Life is an ‘all you can eat' banquet, but you have to fill your plate to enjoy it.”

The book also mentioned the threats currently faced by cetaceans. The last topic is like this:

No more tears: displacing our biggest problem with love

Although humans have harmed dolphins , they still choose to love us. It is only with love that this world could become more beautiful.

Telepathy of Dolphins

The author also said that dolphins can read our mind, therefore, no one can hide his / her feelings from them. Dolphins will only approach those kind, sincere, happy and respectful people with positive energy.


Whales, Dolphins, and Other Marine Mammals of the World (Princeton Field Guides)


Author: Hadoram Shirihai ,   Brett Jarrett

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Year of publish: 2006

ISBN no.: 978-0691127576

No. of pages: 384 pages

Language: English

This is the most frequently used book in my collection. It gives good details about all the cetacean species in the world – characteristics, distribution, physiology, etc. In addition to drawings, this book uses photographs to show how different species look like in the wild. This book is a must for those who are crazy about whales and dolphins.