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

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Disrupted dolphin sighting

Today was yet another chance for us to see Bottlenose Dolphins in the waters around the Kisite Mpunguti Marine Protected area. One difference today however was the sheer number of boats that were also present during the sighting. As a National Park, this area attracts a large number of tourists hoping to see dolphins and snorkel the stunning reefs and as we go into the peak season this number is steadily increasing. Part of GVIs work here, as you might be aware, is to assess the impact tourism has on the area and its wildlife. We work alongside Kenya Wildlife Service in this and together we established the Code of Conduct followed by all boats operators in the region.

-- Tourist boats can be under pressure to get closer to the dolphins --

Unfortunately tourist boats are often under pressure to get good close up sightings of the animals and find themselves in competition with other boats blocking their view. Today was a prime example of this, with seven dhows surrounding a small group of dolphins and each hoping to get a good glimpse for their guests. The dolphins were clearly disturbed by the boats and tried to avoid them getting too close by diving down and travelling away. We are lucky that in this area compared to other tourist hotspots, we have relatively few boats with relatively small engines, however if driven irresponsibly they can be disruptive to cetacean species. It is also a constant consideration for our research vessel – we are always mindful of the impact our presence can have on pods and avoid unnecessary or prolonged contact time and will always keep a good distance, especially when other boats are present.

The work we do here is so important to ensure responsible tourism and proper education for tour boat operators, to prevent potentially negative impacts of disturbing the dolphins during their natural behaviour. We will continue to monitor the responses of dolphins to the presence of boats and with KWS implement any changes necessary to the Code of Conduct and provide more education to both the people running and those enjoying the dolphin tours.