The Conservation Implications of Cetacean Culture

London / Bonn, 17 April 2014 - On 15 and 16 April 2014, the 19 participants of a CMS Scientific Council workshop held in London, United Kingdom, discussed the conservation implications of cetacean culture. Aspects covered included evidence for and peculiarities of cetacean culture, consequences of loss of cultural memory, and culturally transmitted behaviours. Besides considering numerous case studies from research on wild cetaceans, two speakers were also focussing on lessons learned from great apes and elephants.

Cultural traits are found in nearly all behavioural domains of both baleen and toothed whales, such as communication, foraging, habitat use and migration. The majority of these traits was found to be persistent over multiple generations.

Discussions focused on the implications of the cultural behaviours for conservation, which can range from increasing a population’s ecological resilience to making it more vulnerable to anthropogenic threats and environmental change. The experts attempted to identify for each cultural trait what the associated conservation issues were that needed to be taken into account when trying to manage the populations and threats appropriately, since culture also influences how cetaceans are affected by and respond to human activities.

The workshop responded to a request contained in CMS Resolution 10.15 “Global Programme of Work for Cetaceans”, and the report and recommendations will be made available for the Scientific Council’s consideration.

Last updated on 30 December 2014