Photo Credit: WCS Congo

Conservation of Atlantic Humpback Dolphins in Gabon and Congo - a refuge for an embattled and forgotten species


Conservation Problem

The Vulnerable Atlantic Humpback Dolphin lives in the shallow coastal waters of Africa's west coast. Although they were probably never particularly abundant due to very specific habitat preferences,they could historically be found all the way from Morocco to Angola. Recent evidence however suggests that numbers are declining, in some areas dramatically, and their range is now limited to just a few very isolated places.

Their coastal tendency makes them very susceptible to by-catch, hunting, fisheries competition, habitat loss and disturbance. Direct and indirect captures of Atlantic Humpback Dolphins combine into the most significant threat to the species along its range. The gradual shift in West Africa from accidental to targeted takes, coinciding with declines in fish populations, is believed to be the primary reason for the species' catastrophic decline in much of its range.

Preventing a similar trend in Gabon and Congo is critical if local populations are not to suffer the same fate. However in most areas effective monitoring and law enforcement is absent and long-term, range-wide prospects for the species are poor.

Project Activities

The project will focus on the Mayumba National Park in Gabon and the Conkouati-Douli National Park in Congo.

Activities aim to eliminate captures of Atlantic Humpback Dolphins and eventually assure the long-term viability and health of these coastal dolphins. The project team will implement three complementary strategies:

To increase community awareness of the species' rarity and cultivate a sense of natural resource ownership, the conservation team will conduct targeted outreach and advocacy actions towards both local communities and management authorities.

For more direct protection of the species, the team will work with local fishing communities and authorities to create inshore fisheries exclusion zones.

Finally, the project will also help fund patrols in the coastal waters of Congo in order to eradicate illegal fishing by trawlers.

To make these solutions sustainable, the project team is engaging multiple stakeholders in the project implementation and outreach activities, including artisanal fishers, local NGOs, school children and management authorities. Such a multifaceted, collaborative approach is indeed more likely to have immediate and lasting positive impacts on the species.

Project Outcomes

The project is expected to have the following direct outcomes:

Safer coastal habitat for the threatened Atlantic Humpback Dolphins.
Stabilised or growing populations of Atlantic Humpback Dolphins within Conkouati-Douli and Mayumba National Parks.
Local constituency of fishermen and other stakeholders in coastal communities for the conservation of Atlantic Humpback Dolphins.
Reduced or no illegal industrial trawling in the National Parks.
Ancillary benefits to species such as the Critically Endangered Leatherback and Vulnerable Olive Ridley Turtles, frequently entangled in nets during the nesting season, and spawning demersal fishes.

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