Stamps in Tribute to Dolphins

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK Namibia Post Limited on Wednesday issued a new series of stamps focusing on dolphins and designed by well-known artist Helga Denker. In a statement, Namibia Post Limited said: “People all over the world are fascinated by dolphins – by their playfulness, by their sleek, beautiful appearance and grace, but most of all by their evident friendliness towards humans. And by the fact that dolphins are like us, mammals, breathing air and suckling their young, but are completely at home in the vast oceans of the world.” It further stated that dolphins are highly intelligent. They communicate with each other over vast distances through ultrasonic sound emissions. And they make deliberate contact with people, visiting swimmers, surfers and boats, even venturing into extremely shallow water close to beaches, to be hand-fed by people wading in the shallows. “I have captured some of these qualities in a stamp series that portrays the essence of dolphins and their habitat. The artworks provide some surprising split-level views, showing both underwater and above-water perspectives in single images,” said Denker, who has at one stage worked at an Australian oceanariun. Denker, one of Namibia’s best-known stamp artists, has designed close to a hundred stamps for Nampost. He has a great deal of personal experience of some of the dolphins depicted, allowing him to portray them effectively. Denker has worked in an oceanarium in Australia, looking after the well being of captive bottlenose dolphins. He has swum with wild bottlenose, common and Benguela dolphins in the oceans off the coast of Namibia and Australia. This kinship with the subjects is evident in the artworks. “The bottlenose dolphin is perhaps the best known dolphin species, familiar to most people around the world from oceanariums, popular films and television documentaries. Bottlenose dolphins have a wide distribution around the world and often come quite close to shore, visiting boats and surfers. They vary greatly in size and appearance, but are generally relatively uniform grey with a lighter underside and are usually somewhere between two and four metres long. They occur in small groups,” Denker said informatively. According to him, common dolphins are often found in large, active schools of as many as 500 animals, with numerous individuals surfacing simultaneously in close proximity of each other. “Although their appearance varies greatly, they can usually be identified by the elaborate hourglass pattern on their flanks, which generally includes a yellow patch. Their size ranges from 1.5 to 2.5 metres. Common dolphins are fast and active, and also very vocal. They have a wide distribution around the world,” he said. The Benguela dolphin is endemic to the Benguela Current flowing along the west coast of southern Africa. “It is generally an inshore species occurring in relatively shallow waters close to the coast, ranging to perhaps 30 km offshore. A very large percentage of the population occurs in Namibian waters. The Benguela dolphin is a small, compact dolphin that enjoys coming close to shore, riding breakers. It has a relatively small, bluntly triangular dorsal fin, a distinctly light grey front half and dark back half of the body, with white patches along the belly and flippers. Its size does not exceed 1.7 metres in length,” the artist said. The artist went on to say that the southern right whale dolphin occurs only in the southern hemisphere. “It is easy to recognise by its distinct dark back and white underside markings and because it does not have a dorsal fin. It is, however, a very shy species that does not usually come close to shore and tends to keep its distance from boats and ships. It is a fast, graceful dolphin, ranging between two and three metres in length and occurring in groups.” To the layman the Risso’s dolphin’s round head and very short beak combined with a very large dorsal fin may give Risso’s dolphin the appearance of a small whale. “Risso’s dolphins develop a distinctly scarred appearance with age, the scars being caused by the teeth of other Risso’s dolphins. It also has a very distinct crease along the forehead or melon. They are around 2.5 to 3.5 metres in length and relatively uniform in colour, although they often tend to get lighter with age. Risso’s dolphins prefer deeper, offshore waters and are widely distributed around the world, occurring in groups,” he said.