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Dolphin Satellite Tracking Trial Underway

5 March 2004


The tagging of three Banks Peninsular Hector's dolphins with satellite transmitters by a Department of Conservation contracted research team was successfully completed today.

Research team leader Dr Greg Stone said the tagging process had gone smoothly and the three dolphins were already being tracked with the tags giving high quality transmissions.

The dolphins, which were overseen by two specialist veterinarians, showed little reaction to the attachment of the tags, and swam off to join other dolphins in their pod after a controlled release, he said.

"We've been tracking the first tagged dolphin for over 24 hours now and she's showing normal behaviour, which is really good."

The dolphins, two females and a male have been named Puari, Tu Ruahine and Timu Timu after Ngai Tahu ancestral names for headlands near where the dolphins were caught.

The dolphins will also be monitored by boat over the next month to observe their behaviour.

DOC Auckland Conservator Rob McCallum said the trial had already proved valuable.

"It's given a group of top marine mammal scientists and veterinarians from overseas research agencies and New Zealand universities an opportunity to work together, refine techniques and share information and skills."

Blood and skin samples taken from the dolphins have gone to Lincoln University for analysis and would yield valuable information about the dolphins' health and genetics, he said.

"Satellite tracking is a potentially powerful tool for learning more about these animals and how to best conserve them. We need to wait for the results now to see what we can learn from this technique in a New Zealand context."

The tagged dolphins will be tracked over the next three months, after which the two fastenings on each tag will release. This will coincide with the life of the transmitter battery.

The results of the satellite tracking work will be available later this year, with the final evaluation of the trial completed by mid next year.


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