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Marine Mammals Acoustics

Marine mammals are often very difficult to study in order to understand their preferred habitats and migratory routes. Research and acoustic analysis has proved to be an effective method of mapping their movements through recording their underwater communications. This is especially true of male humpback whales who are known for their vocalisations or “song” during the breeding season. Breeding behaviour in Kenya prior to KMMREC studies was scant until in 2017, when the first song as recorded with a hand held device donated by Dr Oliver Adam in Watamu.

Regional Studies

With this knowledge KMMREC through regional affiliations have partnered with Globice Reunion in a regional acoustic project known as COMBAVA supported by the European Union and the Reunion Government. COMBAVA proposes to identify a South West Indian Ocean Network of humpback work song, “humpback whale occurrence varies significantly between years in the South West Indian Ocean (SWIO)”.

These annual variations, yet unexplained, raises the question of the species movement patterns and population structure in the region. By allowing continuous data collection throughout the breeding season, acoustics have proven to be a key method to get better knowledge on the temporal distribution of humpback whales in different breeding sites and to assess regional connectivity, through the analysis of song structure. A first regional acoustic study, carried within the previous ET.CET.R.A project highlighted a high connectivity between Reunion and Madagascar and suggested a migratory stream from the east African coast (Tanzania) to the north-west coast of Madagascar (Nosy Be) at the end of the breeding season. To confirm these preliminary results and extend the spatial range of the study, GLOBICE is willing to pursue the regional scientific cooperation on humpback whales’ acoustic study in 2020-2021, and to extend it to a larger number of breeding sites.

KMMREC representing Kenya, are part of this key regional team, including Tanzania, Reunion, Madagascar and Tanzania, and have deployed two Soundtrap ® courtesy of Wildlife Conservation Society in 2020 in various locations within the Watamu Marine Reserve. Future analysis will provide a compelling insight into the love songs of male whales and migratory routes along the East African coast.

Local Research

In 2021 in an effort to document the occurrence of Indian Ocean humpback dolphins in the Malindi Marine Protected area, an we deployed two types of unit. By kind donation from Chelonia Ltd an F -Pod for recording toothed dolphins and whales and a Soundtrap ® to determine the amount of time this endangered species inhabit this protected area. This study will help corroborate visual sightings that suggest a semi resident population in the area of significant importance to this endangered species.