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Common bottlenose dolphins: A common species on its way out?


Population assessment of South Africa’s most endangered dolphin

Marine Conservation: Research Pojects

The bottlenose dolphin of Argentina is under serious threat. Populations have been declining in the past decades yet there is no clear answer as to why this is happening. Today it is safe to say that the bottlenose dolphin of Argentina is among the most threatened marine mammal species in this part of the world. Whalefish is conducting research on the bottlenose dolphins in North Patagonia. The project aims to:

  • Build on the extensive sighting history (photo-identification) database, created between 2006 and 2011 in North Patagonia (Vermeulen, 2014)

  • Commence the expansion of photo-identification data collection to adjacent areas

  • Motivate the collection and sharing of opportunistic photo-identification data by local inhabitants, photographers, commercial tour operators and tourists

  • Stimulate and coordinate inter-site comparison with colleagues working in adjacent areas

  • Continue the educational outreach based on our book “Dolphins of the Bay” 

These results will assist in the identification of causal factors affecting their conservation status, feeding directly into the identification of priority conservation actions. Based on these data, new and improved directives will be proposed to enhance current marine conservation measures in the country.

The Indian Ocean humpback dolphin of South Africa, was recently recognised as a separate species (Sousa plumbea) and as ‘vulnerable’ by the IUCN Red List, becoming South Africa’s most endangered marine mammal. Rough estimates indicate the presence of less than 1,000 individuals. However, population exchange between several coastal regions strongly suggests the total number of individuals could be lower than initially believed. The future of this species in South African coastal waters is therefore strongly conservation depended.


To aim of the Sousa Project is to establish an intergroup collaboration for the national assessment of the humpback dolphin population status and viability in South Africa, critical information at times of formulating accurate conservation management strategies.


Whalefish Science director Dr. Els Vermeulen is leading this project within the Western Cape together with her colleagues of Sea Search. Her work involves the execution of fieldwork (including photo-ID, genetic sampling and acoustic recordings) and establishing of a working relationship with other research groups for inter-site comparison of data


For more information, please check the website