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Dolphin Tracking Trial Will Be Valuable


1 April 2004

Dolphin Tracking Trial Will Give Valuable Information

A valuable insight into the movements of native Hectors dolphins has been the feature of the first month of a three-month satellite tagging trial at Banks Peninsula.

On March 4 and 5, matchbox-sized transmitters were attached to three Hectors dolphins, Puari, Tu Ruahine and Timu Timu, all named after Ngai Tahu ancestral names for headlands near where the dolphins were tagged and released.

The transmitters send positional fixes, via satellite, to scientists allowing them to plot the dolphins’ movements day and night.

The technique is being trialled to assess its suitability for the closely related Maui’s dolphin, which lives off the west coast of the North Island. Fewer than 150 Maui’s dolphins remain in the world and information on their range is urgently needed to ensure they are being protected from fishing related threats.

DOC Auckland’s Acting Conservator Warwick Murray said although it is still early days in the trial, the information coming back will give scientists an increasingly detailed and valuable picture of the day and night movements of the three Hectors dolphins.

“A better understanding of dolphin movements will give us a better chance of protecting them.”

Mr Murray said one dolphin, Puari, has taken at least a 60 kilometre round-trip from Banks Peninsula, north, to an area off the Waimakariri River and back again.

He said another dolphin, Tu Ruahine, came within a few metres of a tourist boat that was dolphin watching in Akaroa Harbour.

“Tu Ruahine and her whole pod displayed all their typical swimming and diving behaviour to the delight of those on board. She circled the boat, with her tag clearly visible, and was just as lively as the rest of the pod.”

Mr Murray said three tourist boats saw the pod, which stayed in viewing range for about an hour.

The third dolphin, Timu Timu, continues to be active around the southern side of Banks Peninsula. The three dolphins will continue to be tracked over the next two months.

The results of the satellite tracking trial will be analysed over the next year, with the final evaluation of the trial completed by the middle of next year.

ENDS

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