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Biology, ecology and anthropogenic threats of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins in east Africa

by Amir, Omar A., PhD

Abstract (Summary)
This thesis examines the biology, ecology and anthropogenic threats of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) off Zanzibar, Tanzania, based on research conducted and samples collected between 2000 and 2008. Distribution and occurrence are described based on incidental catches (bycatch) in gillnet fisheries. Biology and ecology are examined by ageing and studying the reproductive biology and stomach contents of collected specimens. The composition of organohalogen compounds is determined in blubber samples, and assessment and mitigation of bycatch are conducted using observers onboard fishing vessels. Fisheries bycatch data showed that Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins occur year round in all areas around Zanzibar. Sexual maturity was attained between 7 and 8 years and body length 190-200 cm in females and at 16 years and body length 213 cm in males. The gestation period was estimated to be 12.3 months, with calving occurring throughout the year, peaking November-March and with an interval of 2.7 years. The estimated pregnancy rate was between 0.10 and 0.58 depending on methods used. Stomach contents revealed a relatively large number of prey species, but that only a few small- and medium-sized neritic fish and cephalopods contribute substantially to the diet. Estimates of total annual bycatch were >9% which is not considered sustainable. An experiment showed that pingers can be a short term mitigation measure to reduce bycatch of dolphins in both drift- and bottom set gillnets. Methoxylated polybrominated diphenyl ethers (Meo-BDEs) were found at higher concentrations than anthropogenic organic pesticides (OCPs), with only traces of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) detected. This study reveals the magnitude and apparent susceptibility of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins off Zanzibar to anthropogenic threats, especially fisheries bycatch, and it is clear that immediate conservation and management measures are needed to reduce bycatch.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:

School:Stockholms universitet

School Location:Sweden

Source Type:Doctoral Dissertation

Keywords:Growth; reproduction; feeding ecology; bycatch; organohalogen compounds; dolphins; Tursiops aduncus; Zanzibar; East Africa; Animal Ecology; zooekologi

ISBN:978-91-7447-002-4

Date of Publication:01/01/2010

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