Award winning Dolphin Watch gathers vital data

Dorsal fins at Dashwood Bay | Image courtesy of Dolphin Watch

Kangaroo Island’s Dolphin Watch program is a great way to show people that they can play an active part in today’s science. We’ve shown school children, uni students and local families that science can be exciting, and their efforts can be useful to Australia’s scientific community.

Our world’s best practice method of cataloguing dolphins is unobtrusive.  Volunteers photograph the animal’s dorsal fin - a piece of cartilage which is so sensitive to changes like nicks, bites, cuts and damage from human impact that it acts like a human fingerprint. The dolphin is observed in its natural habitat  – unlike the majority of research which is based on either captive dolphins, carcasses or invasive procedures.  Since the program began in 2005 we’ve built a catalogue of 200 dolphins.

So little is known about dolphins in the wild that IUCN have declared them to be data deficient. This study helps us to establish their home range, where they move to, and why – and the results are available to assist the work of the world’s scientific community. Understanding this basic behaviour is the first step in providing important data and ensuring populations are protected.

One in three people on the island have been involved with the program at some point. That’s a staggering number of Kangaroo Island residents helping to map our dolphin friends!

Tony Bartram, Kangaroo Island Dolphin Watch

Australia’s National Landscapes

Australia’s National Landscapes is a tourism and conservation partnership managed by Tourism Australia and Parks Australia. The program helps tourism, conservation and local businesses work together in 16 iconic Australian eco-tourism destinations.