Wherever you are on the planet, we hope our dolphin mail finds you well! This year has sped past at a rate of knots and before we get swum off our feet again I thought it appropriate to update you on not only what is happening in our dolphin world, but also in the place we call home.
It has been a busy time for our local Dolphins of Ponta. For those of you that had been following our tales, Bo - the very first to initiate a circle swim in 1999 became a grandmother, as did her BF Gilly!
For the Dolphin Team this is pretty awesome as we have been able to closely follow these two family lines….
Ponta do Ouro, Mozambiques diving Mecca has over the months undergone some dramatic changes. The road is now complete and the bridge connecting Maputo to the southern most Point is open.
Non-4x4’s can comfortably get to the market, after which chaos ensues with low chassis, souped up vehicles, busses and monster trucks getting stuck on the soft, sandy roads. Paradise found is certainly Paradise lost as we wait with baited breath for the festive season.
This year we have taken the decision to close from the 31st December to the 2rd of January. With previous years launch site and parking congestion together with very busy seas for our finned friends who are calving - we feel this is best.
For the Love of Dolfriends!
Angie Gullan and the Dolphin Team .
Ambassador Bo was filmed very close to term at the end of October and by the first week of November (during rough sea’s) she calved once more. You can ADOPT Bo through our Partners in Germany at GRD!
RESEARCH - CONSERVATION
During the months of September and October The Dolphin Team in Ponta do Ouro, Mozambique undertook 52 launches which saw us spending 71 odd hours at sea. During this time we had 137 sightings of marine mammals that included bottlenose and humpback dolphins and spinner dolphins. Humpback whales were observed on 74 occasions and there were days were blows could be seen everywhere on the horizon. The weather has been somewhat relentless and kept us off the water 22 days in total!
It has been two months full of dolphin delights too. We have hosted a number of special holistic retreats, workshops and school tours which have allowed us to be on the water and to introduce participates not only to our local dolphins of ponta but also to ways in which they can help. A constant flow of volunteers has allowed us to undertake almost weekly micro-plastic surveys in collaboration with the Big Microplastic survey. During September we co-ordinated two beach clean-up events for international coastal clean-up that saw ±250 adults and children collect 172 bags of rubbish - mostly plastic weighing in at over a tonne.
Over the past two months we had 60 boat based sightings of our local dolphins of ponta. On 5 of those occasions they were in the company of our local humpback dolphins and once with some humpback whales. Dolphins were located 80% of the time when the boat was traveling north towards Ponta Malongane. In-water encounters and sightings occurred mostly (46%) in depths of 5 to 10m. Dolphins were observed traveling south 52% of the time mostly between the 5-10m mark over sand. On 22 occasions our finned friends were cruising in the backline surfing, socialising and resting. Dolphins approached the boat most of the time with only 2 boat avoidance events recorded.
In-water observations occurred 76% of the time and comprised of bouts of conscious interaction; dolphins stopping to engage (Swim class A, B, C) 46% and pass-throughs (swim class D) with dolphins not stopping to engage. Swim attempts ranged from a minimum of one drop 65% of the time to max of two drops 17% and no drop at all 15%.
Basic behaviour was recorded on approach of pod and comprised mostly of traveling 44%, socialising 26%, with equal time spent hunting and resting. We opened the spring calving season with our first newborn sighting on the 27th September. A second sighting was had on the 5th October which was very exciting as it included first time mum DT! For the past four years we have been observing a female with a uniquely damaged tail stock. She first made it onto our radar while in the company of Freya and her babe in October 2015 and has been sighted as far down south in Sodwana Bay back in 2014! We look forward to a bumper of a calving season this year with some of our old local ladies with child!
Mozambican biologist Diana Rocha recently completed her discretion where she evaluated the impacts of Cetacean based Tourism our local Dolphins of Ponta. Using data supplied by the reserve on vessel traffic, data collected on commercial cetacean based tours and tourists questionnaires she can conclude that there has been a 68% increase in boat traffic out of Ponta do Ouro alone and swim class & avoidance showed strong changes between 2008 & 2017. The increase of tourism, CBT and vessel traffic has had a negative impact on the resident population of dolphins and although the impacts are not sufficient to drive the population away it has altered their day-to-day routine and tolerance to humans. The poster was displayed at the African Marine Mammal Colloquium hosted in Port Elizabeth South Africa.
Turtle nesting season is between the months of October and March. Turtles are protected and should not be disturbed. The handling of turtles is not permitted. Do not attempt to put turtles back into the water. Please keep away from nesting turtles. Failure to comply will result in a 50 000 Mtn fine.
Turn OFF beach front lighting, close curtains.
No flash photography around turtles.
No torches on the beach after dark.
Turtle walks are not permitted in the reserve.
Please remove litter & fill in holes.
Report incidents of poaching or harassment to the Reserve.
VOLUNTEERS & INTERNS
We continue to offer internships to students and currently have both Phoebe who is cleaning up and looking at our spinner dolphin data and Inga who is an intern from the University of Twente. She is undertaking a study on the gender difference in attitude towards marine conservation. Are woman more aware of marine conservation and are they more altruistic than men…
Please take a couple of minutes to participate in Inga’s research by completing the online questionnaire and check back with us in a couple of months for the results:
What our volunteers say…
’After volunteering for 7 weeks I cannot believe how quickly the time has passed. I continue to enjoy swimming with the dolphins and even the occasional whale. I have been so fortunate while here to not only swim with the dolphins but also encounter other marine wildlife such as the other day when sighting a leatherback turtle! It is nice to slowly start recognising the different dolphins and to see them show off their personalities, such as Rocha and her playful son Ripple. I look forward to see what the second half of my time volunteering will bring!’ Phoebe: Marine Biology and oceanography student Plymouth University
My first launch was the best one so far. The first time I got into the water, I felt a bit uneasy at first, but that was gone fast, when I saw the dolphins approaching. I have never seen dolphins so close, making eye contact with them gave me a deep feeling, never felt before. But not enough, the whales we’ve seen breached so many times and left us in awe. Being on the boat is always an experience and Angie and Mitch are very experienced and know a lot. During every launch, you see and hear something new. Launching is not the only activity we do do as volunteers. Next to beach cleanups we are analysing micro plastic which makes you even more aware of the sea and the influence we have on it. Also, we’re working on a turtle skeleton, which is quite tricky, though fascinating at the same time. Being a volunteer at Dolphin Encountours Research Center is a lot of FUN and each day brings a new experience. Inga University of Twente
Part 2 Edu-Tourism Update to follow...