Sousa are a species of conservation concern, as I have mentioned in previous posts, because they live very close to the coast (often right in the surf zone) and are regularly caught in fishing nets. Any coastal development or pollution also directly affects this species, and throughout West Africa, numbers of Sousa are thought to be declining. This is a unique species, found only along Africa's west coast between Morocco in the north and Angola in the south. There is no estimate of the total population size or even of regional populations, so it is difficult to know just how endangered they are. Were this happening in Europe or North America, there would be outcry from conservation groups to protect this unique species, and government would be under pressure to put monitoring and conservation measures in place. But this is Africa, resources are limited, many species and habitats are under threat and no one has shouted loud enough about the little humpback dolphin.
|Bottlenose dolphins, Bijagos Archipelago. Photo by R. Leeney.|
Not-so-elusive, bottlenose dolphins also made several boisterous appearances, during that survey as well as on the trip back from the island of Orango, in the south of the Archipelago, to Bubaque. And while I wandered close to the harbour of Cacine, close to Guinea-Bissau's border with Guinea-Conakry, fishermen mending their nets on the bank of the Rio Cacine shouted 'golfinho' at me and pointed towards a group of bottlenose dolphins which were making their way upriver. I guess everyone in town knew what I was there for.
|Bottlenose dolphins in the River Buba. Photo by A. Torres.|
Guinea-Bissau is probably still a haven for coastal dolphins, relatively speaking, but change will come, eventually. Guinea-Bissau's communities are linked closely to their local environment and thus rely on healthy mangroves, rivers and seas for food, cultivation areas, protection from coastal erosion. What better a mascot for protecting these ecosystems than this most West African of dolphins, Sousa?
This work was funded by the Mohammed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund and facilitated by Noé Conservation.