Dol­phin study cap­ti­vates

Pilbara News - - Pilbara News - ■ Bran­wen Smith

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.

Pic­ture: Tim Hunt

Tim Hunt at the Amer­i­can con­fer­ence.

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