Welcome to the Marine Mammal and wildlife Research and Community Development Expedition blog where you can keep up to date with all the happenings and information from Kenya

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Humpback whales in Kisite marine park

The exciting news from our marine research programme today was the appearance of humpback whales in Kisite Marine Park. The mother-calf pair surfaced near to Kisite Island this morning in front of the team aboard our research vessel 'Bardan', a traditional local dhow that also goes by the name of 'Lampard' thanks to its Chelsea FC supporting owner!

Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) observed close to Kisite-Mpunguti MPA in August 2007

The photo identification survey was attempted, however with these majestic whales, unique identification comes from the pattern of notches on the tail flukes as opposed to the dorsal fins of the dolphins that dominate our cetacean research. Unfortunately this mother and calf did not demonstrate much tail-diving behaviour and so opportunities to photograph their tail flukes for analysis were few and far between.

Humpback whale mother-calf pair recorded by GVI on surveys last year

However it is very exciting still to have the opportunity to record the movements of these infrequent visitors to the Kisite-Mpunugti marine protected area. This is only our second sighting of them on marine surveys this year, the first coming almost a month ago, again a mother-calf pair, although we can't yet determine if they were the same pair. Humpback whales were also spotted in the Wasini channel at the beginning of July, and this represents valuable data in understainding their annual migrations along the south Kenyan coast, which seem to cover at least a two month period. In addition it is a remarkable experience for our expedition members that have been conducting our cetacean research on the bottlenose and humpback dolphins over the last 8 weeks to see their larger relatives close up in the same waters.