This week has undoubtedly belonged to our marine research crew aboard ‘Lampard’… and they saved the best to last. A few blogs back I wrote about our highlight of 2008, possibly of our entire research programme that begun in January 2006, our first observation of the endangered dugong, and the first confirmed sighting on Kenya’s south coast in, we believe, a decade.The excitement at the time was incredible, an exceptionally rare experience that we didn’t think we’d ever have – well I’m only too happy to report that the excitement is no less the second time around. This morning as the research boat travelled from Kisite Island to Lower Mpunguti Island, within the marine protected area, a large mammal surfaced just metres in front of the boat. Just like the first time, everyone on board remained cautious and scanned the ocean for confirmation. It came as a tourist dhow approached, again causing the large brown mammal to surface quickly in front of its bow, but clear enough for a confirmed sighting of a dugong, this time inside the marine protected area. The chart below indicates the two sightings:
There wasn’t time to get photos and we have no way of knowing whether it was the same individual that we sighted in November last year, but this does not diminish the significance of today’s events. What is almost certainly Kenya’s rarest mammal may well be returning to the south coast; clearly one individual is a long way from indicating a recovery, but it’s reason enough for now not to give up hope.
Before we move completely in to a new and exciting of year of GVI and Kenya, some of our research and community development team have put together their highlights and memories of the end of last year to share. So, from the research boat, Bardan…
Not forgetting the beautiful humpback whales, including their calves, that we saw and blogged during our first couple of weeks on the marine research programme back in October, the rest was equally exciting. On many occasions we could count ourselves lucky enough to spend time in the wake of large groups of Indian Ocean bottlenose dolphins… the coolest part though? Thanks to a lot of office time and more photographs of fins than we care to dwell on, we could recognise many of the dolphins and know them by name! Mothers, juveniles, calves all leaped from the water demonstrating elegance and playfulness in equal measure.
Indo-pacific humpback dolphins also put in an appearance but remarkably… and for the first time ever… the cetaceans (our whales and dolphins) were upstaged by another marine mammal. And one that we never truly, honestly expected to see, however much we had hoped. On 4th November 2008, our dedicated observers on board Bardan, whilst tracking bottlenose dolphins in to Funzi bay, recorded the first confirmed sighting of a dugong on Kenya’s south coast in the three years we have been here, and to our knowledge, in over a decade; none were recorded south of Mombasa in a 1998 aerial survey, whilst Kenya’s entire population, concentrated around the Lamu archipelago, could be down to single figures by now.