Just in time for Endangered Species Day on 19 May, results from seasonal monitoring of the Gippsland Lakes’ critically endangered Burrunan dolphin population reveal not one but three new calves have joined the population.
The Marine Mammal Foundation (MMF) team undertakes four surveys per year. Each season they spend two weeks monitoring and recording the resident population of Burrunun dolphins – and they know every dolphin by name.
“One highlight of the Summer survey was that we were able to identify resident dolphin number GL10306 also known as ‘Beyonce’ with a newborn calf (see above) thanks to community reports,” said Dr Kate Robb, MMF Director.
And in more good news, the team completed the first round of Autumn monitoring last weekend and were treated to a very special Mother’s Day.
“We are delighted to report two very new calves, Ebony and Ivory,” said Dr Kate.
“They are so new in fact that their foetal folds are still visible. These are folds that form while the baby dolphin is curled up in utero and usually fade after birth. Ebony was named for the dark foetal folds, and Ivory for the lighter ones.”
“This brings our total number of calves in the Gippsland Lakes population to five, the largest number of young-of-year calves we have had in the system since 2019 and since the population was affected by the freshwater skin disease. It is absolutely fantastic to see.”
The researchers are also working with the community as part of their Lakes Champions project funded through a Gippsland Lakes Coordinating Committee Community Grant.
“The Lakes are super popular for boating, and it is always fantastic to see the Burrunan dolphins, but we have found that breaches to vessel approach regulations can cause behavioural changes in the dolphins so it is really important to remember that vessels, powered and unpowered, may not approach within 100 metres of a dolphin, and jet skis may not approach within 300 metres of a dolphin. These regulations are in place to ensure the safety of both the vessel and the dolphins,” said Dr Kate.
Initiatives include a Guide to Safe Boating booklet that gives guidance for vessels to responsibly share the Lakes with the dolphins. The MMF team also took part in a community cruise to share information about the dolphins and their conservation.
The MMF team is set to be back on the water over coming weeks undertaking crucial research on the local and critically endangered Burrunan dolphins and again in July – stay tuned for updates.
This project is part of a $248 million investment by the Victorian Government to improve the health of waterways and catchments. Of this, $7.5 million is being provided to improve the health of Gippsland Lakes over three years (2021-2024), through support to the Gippsland Lakes Coordinating Committee and for the delivery of on-ground works and community engagement.
You can help
Dolphin and Whale Spotting, Victoria TrakMM Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/298432527922744
Marine Mammal Foundation TrakMM, log a sighting https://www.marinemammal.org.au/trakmm
For more information