Dolphin Operators in Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve called on to find a solution during calving season.

Dolphin Operators in Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve called on to find a solution  during calving season.


Image: Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin named Bo with one of her calves in the Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve.

Ponta do Ouro, Mozambique – The first official dedicated marine mammal operators meeting took place at the Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve (PPMR) offices on the 6th October 2017.

The meeting was requested and presented by Miguel Goncalves – the newly appointed warden of the Maputo Special Reserve and Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve. Vincent Matsimbe was present as second in command and will be operators go to man for issues arising within the marine mammal/megafauna tourism sector. 

The meeting was attended by representatives of The White Pearl, Malongane Dive Camp, (Somente Aqua) Dolphin Centre and Dolphin Encountours Research Center – the four official permit holders between Ponta do Ouro and Mamoli. 

Marine Mammal tourism has grown exponentially over the past two decades and as new research emerges we are discovering that activities designed to get tourists close to dolphins and whales do indeed have a large negative impact. A booming ocean safari trade, fishing charters and boats together with fishing jetskis (personal powered water craft) means its busy seas for the local bottlenose dolphins and marine mammals living in and frequenting the reserve’s waters. 

Mozambican biologist Diana Rocha has been monitoring the local dolphins since 2010 and looked at data collected between 2006/12. She identified 46 females with offspring over 6 calving seasons. The 2009/10 season saw a 38.9% mortality rate with predation, natural causes and human impact being listed as probable culprits. Pods with newborns were found to be larger than those without and change of direction increased on approach of the boat, indicating disturbance.

A major concern is that during the summer months of  December and January the local dolphins calve. This coincides with the busiest time of the year making dolphins frequenting the area vulnerable to disturbance by increased boat traffic, noise pollution and harassment. On a good weather day commercial dolphin swim operators and ocean safari tours start at sunrise and run throughout the day. If we take the two dedicated dolphin centers in Ponta do Ouro, as well as the water-sports and adventure centers in Mamoli and Malongane, we can safely say that the dolphins will be afforded little rest or quiet time during the busy times.

It is now clear that the amount of operators is too many and that the recommendations of one permit holder per 20km made by Dr Almeida Guissamulo from the Museu de Historia Natural, Maputo should have been considered when concerns were submitted to governmental departments before the reserve was proclaimed. 

It is within the Reserves Mandate to protect the local dolphins who live in the coastal shallows of the Lubumbo Transfrontier Conservation Area and they have requested operators who have a vested interest in the well being of the local dolphins to urgently address the problems and come up with solutions. 

The harsh truth lies in the consequence of operators not making a plan. With discussions from a complete ban, as is the case in South Africa to the concessioning out of one operator per permitted area, operators will have to look at reducing the amount of time spent with dolphins; the amount of in-water attempts; rest time in between visits; creating further sanctuary zone’s and implementing stricter controls for in-water encounters. 

In July of this year the World Whale Conference  & Whale Heritage Sites (WHS) Summit in Durban was represented by Mozambique with owner-operators Ilha Blue Island Safaris from Ilha de Moçambique and Dolphin Encountours Research Center from Ponta do Ouro. The 5 day conference/summit was arranged by the World Cetacean Alliance (WCA) and followed the theme of working towards sustainable tourism for cetaceans [dolphins and whales] and whale heritage site initiatives. In a survey undertaken by WCA, thirty three area’s of interest in twenty two countries were surveyed as possible whale heritage sites, most individual replies listed locations in South Africa, with Mozambique receiving the highest nomination. With both populations of wild dolphins and humpback whales that navigate these waters from June to December every year, the  Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve is of great importance for the protection of these species.  

A second meeting has been agreed upon by Marine Mammal Operators before presenting solutions to the reserve. 

 If you would like more information please contact:

Angie Gullan

DolphinCareAfrica t/a DERC

+258 84 330 3859

angie@dolphincare.org

Dolphins ‘Popping’ in Ponta do Ouro, Mozambique…

Dolphins ‘Popping’ in Ponta do Ouro, Mozambique…

One of the most fascinating things about my work with the wild #dolphinsofponta  is being able to create a safe space were humans are able to observe this special species in their own environment.

Over the past couple of years I have filmed numerous events of a vocalisation I called tok, toking….Popping, a term coined by Richard C. Connor and Rachel A. Smolker in their article entitled ‘Pop’ goes the Dolphin, is of of those vocalisations that normally stops me mid swim! It’s done by the big boys and is sometimes followed by aggressive behaviours such as mock charges and open jaws!

In the coastal shallows of Shark Bay W.Australia three adult males were observed between 1987-88 in the company of one single female at a time. Over the period the female was seen to turn in towards the males and the authors concluded that popping is a threat vocalisation telling the female to stay close.

The series of low frequency pulse sounds are very distinctive and always accompanied by a series of bubbles. Through our in-water recordings in the Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve in Mozambique we are able to associate the popping with the bubbles and the individuals – and guess what – they are all males too!

Since 2008 we have recorded some 30 events of popping. Interestingly enough though, most of our events included large nursery pods with adult male escorts. It seems that popping is also used on this side of the globe to keep the girls together.

On the 27th September I filmed an event with RemmyBoy and two other same age males together with a juvenile male who were in pursuit of Maria a young female.  It did look like the young boy was getting a lesson in popping and herding – with Maria being the consort this time! The adult males however this time slowed for a bit of circle swimming and conscious interaction with me before heading off in pursuit of Maria once more.

The #dolphinsofponta are part of a longterm monitoring project that was started in 1997 by DolphinCareAfrica; the research & conservation arm of the Dolphin Encountours Research Center in Ponta do Ouro, Mozambique.

 

Reference: Connor, Richard & Smolker, Rachel. (1996). ‘Pop’ Goes the Dolphin: a Vocalization Male Bottlenose Dolphins Produce During Consortships. Behaviour. 133. 643-662. 10.1163/156853996X00404. 

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