Spinner dolphins Stenella longirostris off south-west Mauritius: abundance and residency
Spinner dolphins Stenella longirostris longirostris off the south-west coast of Mauritius are subject to ongoing anthropogenic disturbance in the form of daily dolphin tourism, which has intensified since 1998. Abundance of this species was estimated using photo-identification data and mark-recapture analysis. Between April 2008 and June 2010, identification photographs were collected from dolphins occurring along a 30 km length of the coast of south-west Mauritius. A total of 250 groups were encountered over 229 survey days. Mark-recapture analyses were performed on a photographic dataset of more than 8 000 good- and excellent-quality images and 83 animals were identified as distinctively marked individuals. The majority (85.5%) were seen more than once and resightings indicated a resident population. The compiled version of SOCPROG 2.4 was used to investigate the lagged identification rate. The fitted model supported a mostly resident population with additional animals moving in and out of the study area. The estimated abundance of the total population in the study area ranged between 138 and 399 individuals. Our results can be used for monitoring the population for fluctuations and for encouraging both the enforcement of laws regarding dolphin watching and the development of further means of management needed to ensure the long-term presence of this population.
Keywords: conservation, dolphin watching, mark-recapture, photo-identification, resident population