Category Archives: Wasini Locally Managed Marine Area

The Elusive Humpback

I was sitting outside the cottage discussing the different types of hornbills found in Kenya, as a Trumpeter Hornbill had just flown over head, when Sergi (the marine officer of expedition 094) pulled me aside to talk about my independent project. I was secretly chuffed that I got given the one I did, as there was a choice of three. The title of my project was “Data Analysis of Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins (Sousa chinesis) collected by GVI Kenya Marine Team from 2006-2009.”
 HBD sightings

These animals are very shy animals and are not as well known as the bottlenose dolphins. Maybe because they are shy or perhaps because of their habitat distribution, there is very little data available. So this was a great opportunity to be able to provide some information. The GVI Marine Team has been collecting data on them since 2006. Whilst out on the boat on a survey day, if we have a spotting we follow them around, taking photos and also monitor their behaviour. Using a GPS (Global Positioning System) we are able to plot the route taken by the dolphins that day.  This allows us to see the areas where the humpbacks dolphins feed, rest, socialise, breed etc. As well as being able to gain data on group sizes and composition.

 So I went forth and did some research on our friends the humpbacks and also plotted the information on our study area (see picture) which is the Kisite-Mpunguti Marine Park and Reserve and the surrounding area.
 Humpback dolphins occur in small groups (3-7) and are distributed throughout Indian and Western Pacific oceans as well as the coast of south east Africa. Inhabiting tropical and subtropical waters (15oC – 20oC), they prefer coasts with mangroves, rocky reefs, estuaries and lagoons. Typically found in waters less than 20m depth, they only venture a few miles from the shore line (as shown on the map), and occasionally they swim up rivers. The distinctive hump on their dorsal fin gives rise to their name; and they are medium sized 2.5m – 2.8m.

boat trWasini channel and the surrounding waters are prone to quite a lot of boat traffic and fishing. Humpbacks tend to avoid boats, although marks caused by propellers have been observed. This is a concern not only because of the damaged caused to the dolphin but also because of the resultant change in their behaviour, e.g. leaving the area. Another concern is that being situated on the coast; the communities living here depend upon fishing as a resource. Recent efforts have been made to educate some of the local community as to the importance and implications of over-fishing and pollutants.

 HBD spyhopping

It is my aim to develop a catalogue of the humpback dolphins, as this will allow us to determine population numbers and residency rates in this region. This is a technique called mark-recapture, and it uses the dorsal fins to identify each individual, mostly from the notches made by other dolphin or boats, but also by the shape, colour and size of the fins. Plus, on the cheeky side I will get to name some of them!

Sarah Watson was a conservation intern on 094 Expedition, and is currently doing her work placement with GVI, as staff member on the Marine and Terrestrial Programmes

Nyuli Conservation Group Training

Nyuli Community Conservation Group is a new group of villagers from Mkwiro village, who are interested to establishing a community marine protected area off Nyuli Reef, which is close to Wasini Island. They are going to have 10 rangers, who are going to be patrolling the area to stop illegal fishing (mainly ring nets and spear gun-fishing) and 22 tour guides, who will take tourist to snorkel on the pristine coral reef of Nyuli or on dolphin-watching tours to see the different species of dolphins and whales.


 Amber and Cody during the “interacting with tourists” lecture
GVI met with the group to know how we could help them and they asked GVI to educate them on the importance of conservation and also to train them on working with tourists. And last Friday GVI volunteers and staff gave lectures on marine conservation as a whole, whales and dolphins (their behavior, morphology and diversity), as well as mangroves.  We were very happy to see their high level of enthusiasm and interest. The main message we tried to get across was for them not to overfish or use illegal fishing techniques, and I am pleased to say they understand the importance of these issues and how they relate to conservation.


 Ebrahim acting as a tour guide, and Cody as a tourist

On Monday we gave lectures on sea turtles and reef fish which I think was quite intense, so when a lecture on “Interacting with tourists” followed the class got involved and they were laughing at each other role playing at being tour guides. Other than being entertaining, I honestly believe that they will make brilliant tour guides. At the end of the week they will have an exam on what we taught them so fingers crossed!!!

Sarah Watson explaining the different families of reef fish

Wasini Locally Managed Marine Area Receive Further Training

Thursday was a slightly different day for the marine team, as we headed to the other side of Wasini Island to give a series of lectures to the Wasini Locally Managed Marine Area (WLMMA) group. We headed out from Mkwiro in two groups; one on foot along the path of the mangroves on the north side of Wasini Island and the other in Squirrel, our boat, travelling west along the channel to reach our destination, Wasini Village.


On our arrival we were ushered to the local football club building by Feisal, one of the committee members of the WLMMA, the group we would be giving lectures to for the day. We waited patiently for the rest of the villagers and members to arrive. The day began with a prayer by one of the village elders, a man of eminent presence, dressed from head to toe in flowing white with a kofia, but also with a touch of the modern day with a hearing aid and flashy sunglasses. Before the presentations kicked off everyone introduced themselves, and we learnt that amongst the members present there were several fishermen and elders of the village.


 Sergi giving a presentation

The Wasini LMMA committee began in 2003, when PACT Kenya visited several villages around the Shimoni peninsula area of the south coast. Their aim was to educate the people of these areas on the value of the environment around them and ways to conserve it, as well as highlighting particular marine areas near the villages that were susceptible to the negative impacts of tourism and over-fishing. The locally managed marine area of Wasini runs from the west tip of the island around the coast finishing mid-way along the north side of the island, encompassing several areas of mangroves and also the reef in front of the village. The group have already introduced and enforced the use of mooring buoys due to the devastating impact of the anchors of the many dolphin dhows that stop to have lunch in Wasini village. They also have daily boat patrols to apprehend anyone using illegal fishing techniques that damage the reef, including spear-gun and dynamite fishing.


 Emma mid-presentation

The group’s main project at present is to take tourists out to a section of the reef for snorkelling trips. So our job was to give lectures and educate the group on several aspects of the marine environment. The lectures included conservation, mangroves, marine mammal biology, whale and dolphin species, sea turtles, reef fish, marketing and company etiquette. The presentations went brilliantly with the students being extremely involved, asking many questions whilst also teaching our volunteers; Kiswahili names and some local traditions.

However we did not spend the whole day in lectures and there was time to have a chai and cake break, lunch in a new eco-friendly restaurant with a delicacy of sea grass on the menu, and a game of football with some of the local children. We were also taken out to the snorkelling area which was an amazing experience. The guys had warned us that we would not see fish any where near the size of the fish found in Kisite-Mpunguti MPA, but this did not damper the experience at all, it just meant everything was miniature! Amongst the many fish species observed we saw anemonefish, an Indian lionfish (Pterois muricata) lurking beneath an over hanging rock, Black-saddled tobies Canthigaster valentine, juvenile Black snappers (Macolor niger) and an Emperor angelfish (Pomacanthus imperator) elegantly gliding around the reef. All in all a very rewarding day for everyone involved!