The Nyangumi Humpback Research Team Lands in Zanzibar

This post was filed by Kristin Ohman who is a member of the Nyangumi Humpback Research Team working throughout the next few months in Zanzibar. Stay tuned for upcoming posts from the team. - ED

So a new and extended season begins for our Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) project, Zanzibar (Unguja Island).

This year we will conduct surveys during the entire season (July-October ) when the whales are present in Zanzibar waters. It is the first year Lucy and Rachael are joining me on the research team and they excitedly arrived in early July 2011.

Now into my third season of the project, we are partnered with Juma Kifana (owner of our house, marine engineer at the IMS)  and as we began, headed down into a post-sunset Kizimkazi-Dimbani, straight into island life and a two day power cut.

The first week has passed and we have settled quite nicely into the village, getting to know the locals, including our two captains (Khamis and Foum) and house guard (Mau), while brushing up on our Kiswahili phrases.

Monday and Tuesday’s survey efforts out on the water have enabled us to confirm that the whales have yet to arrive although we did record several sightings of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) groups including Ronja, a well known local female dolphin from past studies.

"RONJA" = Known resident I-P bottlenose dolphin

Windy weather and rough seas have kept us on land the last few days but we have distributed waterproof phone bags in order to extend the local humpback whale fishermen sighting network to facilitate the field research survey effort and reporting of entangled whales (caught in drift- and bottom set gillnets) to the disentanglement team.

We also took this opportunity to do our first supply run on the daladala (local bus) up to Stone Town, two hours north of the village and are now back, eagerly awaiting the arrival of this year’s first humpback whales. The project is also aiming to aid with developing sustainable whale watching in the local coastal communities as source of income. In addition, we plan to hold the follow up to last year’s bycatch and entanglement workshop which will be training local people on safe methods of disentanglement operations of cetaceans.

Meal of the week: Saturday dinner – “village take-away”; chips, kebabs and grilled corn knobs (during one of our long power cuts, when we’re unable to use the cooker in the house).

Let the season begin!

Tutaonana baadaye!

--KO

For more information on the International Fund for Animal Welfare efforts to protect whales around the world visit http://ifaw.org

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