In many parts of the world, watching and swimming with wild dolphins in their natural habitat has become a very sought-after recreational activity in the tourist industry. The immense development of the touristic sector in Hurghada over the last two decades is an enormous threat to the local indo-pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) population and conservative action becomes absolutely necessary.
Previous studies have shown that dolphins change their behaviour (speed and movement) and even their group structure as a result of the presence of too many boats that come into close proximity. In the dive site of Fanus West, indo-pacific bottlenose dolphins are harassed intensively by many tourist boats operating in this region. The ongoing disturbance of their natural behaviour could prevent the dolphins from resting and nurturing their infants. Therefore, one of the aims of the “Dolphin Watch - Natural Underwater Science” project is to compile a protected area in the dive site of Fanus West and other critical habitats around Hurghada. Furthermore, the conservation of these regions will also protect the whole underwater ecosystem in this area, like corals and reef fishes.
Film material since 2001 and observations until now demonstrate that the dolphins in Fanus West stay in this area mainly to rest. Between October 2009 and March 2012 “Dolphin Watch” identified 140 indo-pacific bottlenose dolphins in the area of Hurghada by using photo-identification techniques. In this period of research over 40 individuals were registered in Fanus West several times. These results demonstrate that Fanus West is visited regularly by the local bottlenose dolphins. This indicates the importance of this region for the dolphin population.
DolphinWatch records special behaviour of dolphin social life which can be very important for conservational purposes. With film material of more than 200 hours and continuous video taping and photo identification, “Dolphin Watch” will be able to investigate the social structure and the social networks of local animals for long-term studies. Furthermore, it documents the environmental and anthropogenic influence on the behaviour activity of the dolphins to identify the dolphins’ critical habitats in the northern Red Sea.
To find out more about the DolphinWatch program visit here.