IWDG Bottlenose Dolphin Photo-id Catalogue

24th Jun 2011 Photo-identification is a powerful tool in the conservation and management of whales and dolphins. Since 2005, the IWDG have been collecting images of bottlenose dolphins from IWDG members, the public and from IWDG dedicated research cruises. To date, images of nearly 200 individual bottlenose dolphins have been sent to the IWDG.

The images are maintained on an on-line catalogue which has recently been updated. IWDG photo-id manager Lonneke IJsseldijk says: ‘It is a fantastic catalogue with images from all over Ireland. It has been a challenge to analyze and match them all as there can be a big difference in mark and photo quality, but after a month of hard work I have managed to get all pictures from up to 2011 online”.

Images were received from as far north as Co. Antrim and as far south as Co. Cork and from the east coast to the west coast. Of the 190 individual dolphins in the catalogue 50 individuals (26.3%) have been seen on more than one occasion, 24 individuals (12.6%) on three or more occasions and seven individuals up to five times !!

There are some very well-marked individuals in the catalogue which have been seen at several locations and over a number of years. For example, BNDIRL_21 was first seen in August 2005 off the coast of Cork and then two years later off Fanore, Co. Clare. In 2008, this dolphin was seen three times; in July in Kerry and twice in August in Donegal Bay. The last sighting of this individual was from June 2010, still in Donegal but who knows where this animal went in between and of course where it will pop up again?!

Another remarkable individual is BNDIRL_106. Not only has this dolphin been seen several times over the last two years, it also seems to have a famous friend. The first sighting of this individual was in April 2009, where it was seen with Fungi in Dingle Bay together with another (unknown) dolphin. A month later, BNDIRL_106 was swimming around Ventry, Co Kerry in a group of 35 individuals. The next sighting was made in west Cork from the Cape Clear ferry in June 2010 where it was with eight other dolphins, but then in January 2011 it was photographed back with Fungi again and once again in March 2011. Local IWDG member Nick Massett who took the images said he often saw them together in Dingle Bay, so it looks like Fungi might have a regular “friend”.

The photo-id catalogue also includes the three dolphins that have been seen almost daily along the Coast of Co Wicklow and Dublin for the last year and have been numbered 180, 181 and 182.

Many, many thanks to all the people who sent in images to the IWDG. This impressive, catalogue is now starting to help us understand the movements and fidelity of bottlenose dolphins along the Irish coast. This information is essential to support conservation actions and policies. Please continue to support this work, and send on all your photo-id images together with the sightings information to sightings@iwdg.ie

Lonneke IJsseldijk and Simon Berrow

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