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Principal Investigator: Salvatore Cerchio, Wildlife Conservation Society

Funding year: 2011 

Main objectives:

  • Assess status, distribution and habitat preference in the Northwest Madagascar study region.

  • Assess the extent of artisanal fisheries interactions with coastal dolphin populations, for both incidental bycatch and directed hunting.

  • Respond to identified threats through a series of community workshops and outreach measures in villages in the southwest of Madagascar where fishermen were previously reported to hunt dolphins.

Main outcomes:

Northwest Region

  • Conducted over 8,000 km of small boat survey effort across seven years in the Northwest region of Madagascar.

  • Identified abundant populations of Sousa plumbea (Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins) and Tursiops aduncus (bottlenose dolphins), and collected baseline data needed for detailed assessment of population status for these coastal dolphins.
  • Identified high cetacean species diversity and several species of conservation concern and contributed valuable data for MPA (marine protected area) development and management. Sightings include first documentation of Omura’s whales in the West Indian Ocean.
  • Conducted socio-ecological interviews  with 150 individuals in 95 interview sessions in 27 villages; traditional cetacean knowledge was congruent with results from boat based surveys.

  • Found low prevalence of directed hunting on coastal dolphins although some evidence of recent dolphin hunting in a subset of villages, and evidence of dugong hunts throughout the region.

  • Obtained reports of coastal dolphin bycatches throughout the region, particularly of Tursiops sp.

 Southwest Region

  • Initiated community intervention activities in the Befandefa Commune, a dolphin hunting hotspot.

  • Engaged stakeholders from 15 villages in workshops that resulted in an action plan for the conservation of marine mammals endorsed by all participants, created four community-based associations (representing 32 villages) for the protection of marine mammals, and developed and ratified local traditional laws (Dina) prohibiting hunting and governing protection of marine mammals.

  • Launched an extensive education and outreach programme, including replication of an established programme in the Anakao region.


Cerchio et al. 2014. Ecology, Status, Fisheries Interactions and Conservation of Coastal Indian Ocean Humpback Dolphins and Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins on the West Coast of Madagascar. Project Final Report to The International Whaling Commission August 15, 2014. 41 pp. Click here to read.