[MARMAM] spinner and bottlenose dolphin research in mauritius

CDSWhale cdswhale at worldonline.co.za
Tue Jul 8 04:19:17 PDT 2008

Hi Marmammers

The together with the Mauritian marine Conservation Society, Centre for Dolphin Studies has embarked on a study of the dolphin watching industry in Mauritius and the dolphins exploited in this industry. To give a little background:

The dolphin watching industry has grown unregulated and uncontrolled over the last 5 or 6 years. (a whale watching industry is nascent and may take off at any moment). On a typical day, groups of spinner dolphins, sometimes up to 100 animals, but typically 50 dolphins, will be visited by an average of 50 boats (sometimes up to 100) over a 4 hour period, early to mid- morning. With a non-ending stream of snorkellers jumping in the water to be near them. 

On occasion, perhaps 20% of the time, small groups (2 to 5) of bottlenose dolphins are subjected to the same fate. 

Contrary to what might be expected, I think the bottlenose are the major conservation issue. What I expect to find, based purely on intuition and not science, is a very small population of Tursiops, probably around 100 to 150 animals. I say this because the Island coastline is only 170km long and the barrier reef on average 750 m wide. So this gives an area of habitat of about 120square km and from experience coastal bottlenose occur at a maximum of about 1 per square km. In contrast, I expect that the spinners visiting the coast daily are part of a larger population, probably around 3000 to 5000 strong - perhaps 1 or 2 thousand less. 

But, that is all conjecture, we need to establish the sustainability of the industry and the conservation status of the dolphins scientifically. 
We have three students working on this:
1. Examining the socio-economic aspects, what the industry is worth, how many people, from where etc etc.
2. Behavioural aspects, what the dolphins are doing in the area, what they do before the boats arrive, during and after.
3. Determining numbers and identity of both species.

The trouble is we have a limited budget and we, like most science, need to augment this in some way. Hence, we are looking for paying volunteers to come to Mauritius and help us with this work. Other than the research (undertaken by three PhD students) outlined above, the programme also encompasses:
Working with schools to promote environmental awareness.
Lobbying Government, the dolphin watching industry and private business, in an effort to gain support for sustainable marine eco-tourism.
So, not only is there opportunity to help the three PhD students with their research, but there will be ample opportunity to work with the MMCS in their educational and awareness campaign.

We would like to host a maximum of two volunteers at any one time to help. Help would mostly be collecting data at sea, on our new boat, or somehow helping the collection of research data.  
Volunteers will be accommodated with two of the students in a small furnished house in Black River (GPS 20o 21.77'S, 57o 21.48'E). Volunteers will share a room and food will be provided, the same food eaten by the students. Anything outside of this will be for the volunteer's own account. Volunteers will be expected to contribute to housework, cleaning etc.
The house is well appointed, two toilets, one bathroom with shower. It is about 750 m from a shopping centre that has a well stocked supermarket. The beach is about 100 m away.  
Openings for volunteers are available immediately.

Charges will be around 350 Euros per week, including airport pick up and return, with a minimum of 4 weeks (and a maximum of 8 weeks, because of Government stipulation).

For more info on volunteering, contact:
Jacqueline Sauzier (MMCS Chair) 
zakinsau at intnet.mu
Imogen Webster (PhD candidate) 
iwebster at mmcs-ngo.org


or, of course, me!

Vic Cockcroft
info at dolphinstudies.co.za

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