In 2013, a team of biologists led by Dr. Salvatore Cerchio made an exciting discovery off the northwest coast of Madagascar: the first population of the rare and poorly understood Omura’s whale that could actually be studied, found off the northwest island of Nosy Be.
Dr. Cerchio has been conducting research on cetaceans in Madagascar since 2004, and studying coastal dolphins and cetacean diversity in the Nosy Be region since 2007. The work on Omura's whales began in 2013, when Cerchio and his team started to see an unusual baleen whale during an effort to document diversity of cetacean species in the region. At first, with only a few brief encounters, they thought it was a Bryde’s whale, a common mistake. But then once they started to see them more frequently, they realized that this was something very special, and genetic verification confirmed that it was in fact Omura’s whale.
Since then Cerchio’s team has published the first scientific study on the ecology and behavior of the species in the journal Royal Society Open Science.
Currently the work continues through an international collaboration between the New England Aquarium, the Malagasy NGO Les Baleines Ass'eau, and the Madagascar Centre National de Recherches Océanographiques (CNRO). The 2015 field work was funded by the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission; funding is being sought for continuing research efforts.