Plettenberg Bay, South Africa 21 June – 30 June 2024

Eavesdropping on the Humpback Dolphin

Using bioacoustics to monitor Indian Ocean humpback dolphins

The key to effective conservation management is the ability to understand how many animals you have in a population and where those animals are distributed throughout their range. For South Africa's most threatened marine mammal, the Indian Ocean humpback dolphin, up to now, scientists have been limited in their ability to collate these key pieces to the conservation puzzle. Traditional monitoring methods such as counting individuals using Photographic Identification (identifying individuals through individual photos of their dorsal fins) are limited in this species due to their low population numbers, extreme coastal habitat and elusive behaviours. Given the small number of individuals remaining in the population (thought to be less than 500 left in South Africa), and a wide range of potential threats to this species, scientists have turned to the sounds these dolphins make to try to count how many remain in South Africa. Unlike other dolphin species in our waters, very little is known about the sounds humpback dolphins produce in South Africa. Starting from scratch we asked - What do their whistles sound like? Do they sound different to other species of dolphin? How much do they call? and why is this important to understand?..... Starting with these basic questions, Sasha will take us through what we now know about these enigmatic, lesser-known dolphins in our waters. Such as, how they give themselves individual ‘names’, how we can start to track individual dolphins as they call out their names underwater and how we can use bioacoustics to help conserve this endangered species.


Sasha is a marine biologist, currently finishing her PhD with Stellenbosch University and Sea Search Research and Conservation, where she studies the acoustics of endangered humpback dolphins in South Africa. Alongside her PhD, Sasha is a core member of the SouSa Consortium, a nationwide group of researchers working together to aid in the conservation of the species, as well as HuDoNet, a working group contributing to the species' global conservation. Sasha also works closely with the African Bioacoustics Community, promoting Bioacoustic research throughout Africa. Sasha has worked in marine science and conservation in South Africa for nearly a decade, training and working with students and researchers throughout southern Africa. Sasha's work focuses on developing acoustic research in the region and also increasing the profile of humpback dolphin conservation in southern Africa. In 2019, Sasha produced a short documentary in collaboration with Homebrew Films ‘The Sound of Hope: The humpback dolphin’. Her work has also been featured on platforms such as Carte Blanche, SABC’s 50/50, The Cape Times, The Conversation and BBC Radio 1.

This event takes place on:

Saturday 22 June

12:00 - 12:25