Wednesday 22 February 2012

Dolphin research in the Sundarbans

Sundarbans NP, Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh

During our Guide Tours trip in the Sundarbans NP, we had some visitors. On our return from a crack of dawn walk in the Kotka Forest Station we noticed a vessel by Bonbibi, our tour boat.

Bonbibi, right, and a visiting vessel
It was the dolphin research boat and this generated great excitement because the authors of the extremely useful Sundarban field guide were abroad!

Elisabeth & Rubaiyat Mansur
Apart from happily posing for photos they were also quite willing to sign our copies, to show us around and chat about their research. They were spending 2 months of this boat together with other researchers monitoring the dolphins. This for the Bangladesh Cetacean Diversity Project (BCDP), banner shown below. 

David chatting with Elisabeth
Note how she is balancing, this trick was also played by her husband…If I had done the same I wouldn’t have been left with very wet socks.
Rubaiyat showing off the toilet
Mind you, the compartment to the left of the rudder is now used for storage but used to be the kitchen. Currently, they have a two ring gas cooker, somewhere else.

Another excitement, their 17 month old son was on board too!

The youngest passenger
 Back to their dolphin research; they photograph their sightings as this helps enormously with their identification.

The tools of their trade
Also, the pilots of all the Guide Tours boats monitor the dolphins on their trips. On the last day of our return voyage to Khulna they logged in 34 sightings. I’ve only seen a few splashes, never a glimpse of a fin!
Last page in the sightings book
The commonest species was PG (Platanista gangetica) the Ganges River Dolphin and the OB (Orcaella brevirostris) the Irrawaddy Dolphin an endangered species.

This research reminded me of Marine Life, a very successful project whereby passengers in commercial vessels have been monitoring whales, dolphins and seabirds in the North Sea and the Bay of Biscay. I wish 
BCDP all the best for their research!

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