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Endangered Species Research

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ESR 25:97-114 (2014)  -  DOI:

Overlooking a potential hotspot at Great Barrier Island for the nationally endangered bottlenose dolphin of New Zealand

Sarah L. Dwyer1,*, Gabriela Tezanos-Pinto1, Ingrid N. Visser2, Matthew D. M. Pawley1, Anna M. Meissner1, Jo Berghan3, Karen A. Stockin1

1Coastal-Marine Research Group, Institute of Natural and Mathematical Sciences, Massey University, Private Bag 102904, North Shore, Auckland 0745, New Zealand
2Orca Research Trust, PO Box 402043, Tutukaka 0153, New Zealand
34 Access Road, Kerikeri 0230, New Zealand
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT:  Conservation initiatives are typically constrained by economic circumstances, a factor certainly true for marine mammal conservation in New Zealand. Most research in this field has been conducted following concerns over anthropogenic impacts on populations and has therefore been funded and/or driven by stakeholder interest. Bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus are classified as ‘Nationally Endangered’ in New Zealand waters. Here, we present the first study on occurrence, site fidelity and abundance of this species off Great Barrier Island (GBI), a previously overlooked region within the home range of the North Island population. Dedicated boat-based photo-identification surveys were conducted monthly from 2011-2013, resulting in 1412 sighting records of 154 individuals. Dolphins were recorded during all months of the year, with a higher probability of encounter in deeper waters during summer and shallower waters during winter and spring. Group sizes (median = 35, mean = 36) were higher than previously reported for this population in other regions. Individual re-sighting patterns were variable; however, overall site fidelity was high (mean monthly sighting rate = 0.33). A Robust Design approach resulted in seasonal fluctuations in abundance and temporary emigration. Based on a super-population estimate, 171 dolphins (CI = 162-180) visited the area during 2011-2013. Our data suggest that GBI is a potential hotspot for bottlenose dolphins of the North Island population rather than a corridor to reach other destinations. We highlight the need for researchers, managers and funding agencies to consider the entire range of a population when conducting or funding research.

KEY WORDS:  Photo-identification · Site fidelity · Home range · Hotspot · Population abundance · Mark-recapture · Survival · Robust Design · User-pays research · Tursiops truncatus

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Cite this article as: Dwyer SL, Tezanos-Pinto G, Visser IN, Pawley MDM, Meissner AM, Berghan J, Stockin KA (2014) Overlooking a potential hotspot at Great Barrier Island for the nationally endangered bottlenose dolphin of New Zealand. Endang Species Res 25:97-114.

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