Multiple and cumulative impacts of human activity have contributed to the significant decline of the Indian Ocean humpback dolphins in South Africa's waters. There are fewer than 500 of the mammals left.
Multiple and cumulative impacts of human activity have contributed to the significant decline of the Indian Ocean humpback dolphins in South Africa's waters. There are fewer than 500 of the mammals left.

Multidisciplinary collaboration focuses on saving humpback dolphins

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Aug 6, 2021

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Cape Town: Science alone will not bring humpback dolphins back from the brink of extinction.

With fewer than 500 Indian Ocean humpback dolphins remaining in South African waters, a multi-stakeholder conservation management plan is needed to boost their numbers.

This is according to the SouSA Consortium, a novel and highly collaborative formalised network of 17 scientists and conservationists from 11 different institutions across South Africa focusing on the conservation status of the little-known humpback dolphins which can be found along the south and east coast from False Bay to Kosi Bay.

For comparison, there are about 1 792 black rhinos and 700-1 050 cheetahs left at present.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the Red List of Mammals of South Africa has listed the humpback dolphin as the first, and to date only, endangered marine mammal resident in South African waters.

Members of the consortium conducted a SWOT analysis to help them identify the actions that should be taken to improve the conservation of these dolphins, which was recently published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science.

“Although environmental factors almost certainly play a role in the declining numbers of the species in our waters, individual threats and solutions are challenging to identify as the South African marine environment is undergoing significant changes, often as a result of human activities, such as coastal construction and pollution,” said lead author and Associate Professor Stephanie Plön from the Department of Pathology at Stellenbosch University and the Bayworld Centre for Research and Education in Port Elizabeth.

“There are also major changes in the distribution and availability of prey species.”

The consortium hopes that their study can form the basis of a conservation management plan that will ensure healthy gene flow in the population, prevent population segregation and improve habitat quality in critical coastal areas.

“We plan to engage more with stakeholders through increased outreach and education and have a stakeholder meeting with invited conservation experts as well as experts from the sectors that are a threat to the species, e.g. tourism, coastal development, etc. to increase our involvement in governance and policy,” said Plön.

Cape Times

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