Humpback dolphin social ecology under anthropogenic threats in Langkawi, Malaysia

Teoh Zhi Yi

Multiple uses of coastal habitats pose a great challenge for conservation of coastal marine mammals. The Langkawi Archipelago is Malaysia’s top tourism destination and an intense fishing ground. It hosts the poorly studied Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis) whose status on the IUCN Red List was recently recommended to be changed from ‘Near Threatened’ to ‘Vulnerable’.

Overlaps between S. chinensis distribution and human activities expose them to anthropogenic threats such as fishing gear entanglements, prey depletion due to overfishing and boat strikes. Dolphin social structure, health and viability of the population are influenced by these anthropogenic pressures, along with certain environmental parameters including habitat quality and food availability. Therefore, we propose to study the social ecology of S. chinensis in Langkawi in relation to external influences using boat-based photo-identification surveys.

This project will assess the species’ adaptive strategies, identify areas important for their survival and the impact of anthropogenic activities on their social ecology and habitat. Our results will be disseminated to local governmental agencies and local community stakeholders in order to develop realistic conservation strategies that are tailored according to the species’ social ecology.