Finally it is happening! After a few months of logistical work we are finally able to return to the field and reencounter the bottlenose dolphins of the bay! It has been nearly 4 years since the last intensive photo-ID work on these dolphins, and so it is time to start again and contribute to the knowledge and conservation effort for these magnificent animals!
Being from Colombia, I have mainly worked with large rorquals, such as the blue whale, fin whale and Bryde’s whale. However, in the last years I have left the field of marine biology to focus on my personal life. This is when I moved to Argentina and when my beautiful daughter was born. Nonetheless, my love for the ocean has only grown deeper and I was very excited when I heard that Els, who had been conducting research on bottlenose dolphins for over 6 years, and Whalefish were looking for someone to take over the project. Having these dolphins literally in my back yard, I felt more than drawn to aid in this project and to be a voice for the conservation of bottlenose dolphins in my new home country! This drive comes from a deep passion within me, and the believe that we need to learn to listen to the natural world, to observe it, understand it and aid in its conservation where needed.
In the beginning of this year, we also gained the support of the Felix de Azara foundation (www.fundacionazara.org.ar). This great alliance has allowed us to have the required institutional support in this country and gain more support in the larger area of Argentina, needed at times when requesting for field permits etc. Together with the support of the local whale and dolphin-watching companies (e.g. www.lasgrutasavistajes.tur.ar), and after receiving in April the amazing DSLR camera sponsored by Whalefish, the project and logistics came finally to a conclusion. Finally I was able to go on the field and start taking photographs of the dorsal fins of these bottlenose dolphins!
The first thing that I noticed being on the field, is that fieldwork related to dolphins isn’t as easy as with whales! Dolphins swim so fast and often avoid the boat, making it hard to obtain excellent photographs of their dorsal fins! After conducting 5 field surveys, we have had 2 encounters so far and over a 100 photo-ID pictures.
Unfortunately, only few of them are good enough to be used in the photo-ID analysis. Obviously I will need much more practice with these animals! Luckily we are forming an important network of photo-ID contributors! People from Bahía Blanca and Bahía San Blas (province of Buenos Aires, up to nearly 400km north-east of the study site), the estuary of Rio Negro (200km east of the study site), the East port of Bahía San Antonio and Las Grutas (south of Bahía San Antonio) have all contributed in total 98 photographs of dorsal fins of bottlenose dolphins in the past few months. Analysing these pictures I have been able to identify 9 different individuals:
I have still a lot of these photos to analyse, and new field surveys to do! It is very exciting to continue this wonderful work with the “dolphins of the bay” who continue to delight us with their presence.
From the bottom of my heart I would like to thank everyone who has helped in this process and gave aid to ensure that I was able to conduct this wonderful work. Thank you Niru Dorrian and Whalefish, and all the people who donated for this amazing DSLR camera! Thank you to all the collaborators in Argentina, contributing to the photo-ID database with amazing pictures! Thank you to Cota Cero, who are always eager to have me on board their vessels. And a special thank you to Els, who has had the strength to keep this project and dream alive for all these years, even from a distance!