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Abundance of the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin <i>Tursiops aduncus</i> off south-west Mauritius

I Webster
VG Cockcroft
A Cadinouche


The abundance of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins Tursiops aduncus off the south-west coast of Mauritius was estimated using capture-mark-recapture modelling. Over the past two decades this population has been subjected to ongoing anthropogenic disturbance in the form of extensive coastal development. Furthermore, daily dolphin tourism, which started in 1998, has rapidly increased in intensity. Identification photographs were collected between April 2008 and June 2010 from dolphins occurring along a 30 km length of coast where a dolphin tourism industry is concentrated. A total of 137 groups were encountered over 229 survey days. Over 5 000 photographs were taken, from which 35 individuals were considered to be sufficiently distinctively marked to use in mark-recapture analyses. The majority (85.7%) were seen more than once and resighting frequencies indicated a resident population. Three newborn calves were recorded during the study. Open population models produced abundance estimates of <100 individuals in the population. These results will be used to make recommendations for the conservation and management of this small, resident population, which is a valuable economic resource for the island but is currently under threat from high levels of human activity.

Keywords: dolphin watching, photo-identification, population estimate, residency

African Journal of Marine Science 2014, 36(3): 293–301