Last Update: 08 September 2012

research

Research efforts in Samadai

HEPCA has drawn up an exhaustive plan for the promotion and implementation of a new “Samadai Vision” to reaffirm, enhance and complete the Samadai experience. Part of this ambitious programme focuses on education and interpretation activities that are to be promoted among the Samadai’s community. Other key points of the plan are more strictly related to scientific research and monitoring aiming at properly assessing the conservation status of the spinner dolphins visiting Samadai.
Research efforts in Samadai Research efforts in Samadai Research efforts in Samadai

In order to understand how the Samadai population is doing, which are its dynamics and trends, and possibly tuning the management plan, long-term data collection is being endeavoured.

In particular, this assessment will provide data and information to support and pursue an advancement of scientific knowledge, dolphin conservation and welfare, as well as awareness and communication.

Research and interpretation activities are organised in 5-day surveys to be carried out regularly by HEPCA researchers, possibly assisted by several interns and/or trainees. Approved by local relevant authorities that granted the permission needed, the research will also be enriched by possible cooperation with the Rangers of the National Parks and the diving community.

 

Research methods

Look who’s there!

Photo identification is a widespread techniques in wildlife studies and it is based on the possibility of recognizing single individuals within a population, thus allowing us to track their presence and movements over time and space. Identification targets are specie-specific: in dolphins, the trailing edge of the dorsal fin is known to carry notches, nicks and scars in a combination and sequence that is in most cases unique and individual (see image below). During the surveys, researchers try to get as many pictures as possible of this part of the dolphin’s’ body; for all individuals present; and from both the left and right side. Photo identification data can reveal fundamental features and characteristics of the population and is seen as a vital tool to design and propose targeted conservation initiatives. All this information will also help assess the conservation status of the population to eventually evaluate the management plan in place and describe the regional status of the species through comparison with data collected within the Red Sea Dolphin Project and the MEGAbase program.

Samadai, moreover, offers many more possibilities as the technique can be successfully applied underwater, increasing the number of individual features actually usable for identification and allowing observations otherwise impossible from above water, for example such as information to the assessment of the gender of the individuals and the recording of social behaviours.  

 

Where were you last night?!

The collection of spinner dolphins regurgitation is also carried out. This may sound alarming, but it is not: spinner dolphins normally and naturally regurgitate, this is not a symptom of a diseases or sickness but a daily routine. Spinner dolphins feed mainly on small squids they catch during the night in their feeding grounds at maximum depths of approximately 200-300m.  The buccal system of these cephalopods  includes the beak, a sharp chitinous hard structure that resists digestion (see images below): beaks and possibly other indigestible material do not move beyond the dolphins’ stomach as, highly likely, they would damage organs of the digestive system. They are vomited instead, usually in early morning hours, providing researchers with information about the feeding ecology of spinner dolphins, another important aspect to consider for the conservation of the species.

(Images by Amina Cesario)

 

Awareness and education, on board and on land

During the 5-day survey, HEPCA researchers visit all daily boats present in Samadai and are available to brief the guests with basic ecological information about Samadai’s dolphins, the history of the protected area and its importance in Egypt and on a global scale. This informative briefing lasts about 10-15 minutes and take advantage includes the use of images to illustrate morphology and characteristics of the animals, the site and the research HEPCA is carrying on.

HEPCA researchers are also available for meetings and/or presentations on land to be held in dive centres, resorts or at the HEPCA Headquarter in Tondoba. All dive centres in Marsa Alam area will receive an email about the upcoming survey and they are welcome to contact maddalena@hepca.com anytime if interested in meeting the researchers to receive  more information or clarification.

We stress the importance of properly communicating the occurrence of these surveys to all operators and stakeholders working in Samadai in order to avoid any detrimental misunderstanding.

 

For more info, please contact maddalena@hepca.com