Dolphin study captivates
Ningaloo’s humpback dolphins have been well received in the US at the 21st Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals.
Almost 2500 people from around the world attended the conference held in San Francisco by the Society for Marine Mammalogy in December.
Flinders University PhD student Tim Hunt talked at a well-attended presentation about his three years of dolphin research, carried out around the North West Cape from 2012-2014.
He researched the world’s most recently identified dolphin species, the Australian humpback dolphin.
Mr Hunt’s presentation was based on about 100 Australian humpback dolphins found in the North West Cape 120sqkm study area, which were found to follow a pattern of residency with movement.
“Individuals do move in and out of the study area, which we can expect given it’s a small study area, but this research highlights that it’s the same individuals regularly using this area and therefore the North West Cape seems to be an important habitat for this species,” he said.
He said less than one per cent of the distribution area of humpback dolphins in Western Australia had been surveyed adequately enough to assess their abundance.
Research is also being carried out in the Kimberley region and Mr Hunt’s fellow student, Daniella Hanf, ran the fourth year of research on Ningaloo in 2015.
A publication co-written by Mr Hunt, Ms Hanf and Flin- ders University senior lecturer Dr Guido Parra was released this month reviewing current knowledge of humpback dolphins in WA and providing recommendations for future management.
“There is currently a lack of information available to provide a thorough conservation status assessment for this species, but this paper highlights that work is being done and that the future looks positive in terms of filling the gap of information to better conserve and manage this poorly known species,” Mr Hunt said.
He hopes to have the research he presented in the US published formally in the com- ing months and aims to submit his PhD thesis in August.
“Hopefully from this work we can build a platform to ultimately establish longerterm research of dolphins on the North West Cape and dive deeper into understanding the ecology of our Aussie humpback dolphins,” he said.
Tim Hunt at the American conference.