Some of the Monkey Mia dolphins have reappeared after not being seen for six days, the longest period they have not been sighted since 1989. Tourists to Shark Bay in Western Australia who came during the six days were disappointed to learn the dolphins were not present, like they have been for decades.
One possible explanation for why they had not been seen for several days was that they had swum out of sight to take advantage of large seasonal gatherings of small fish out at sea so they could eat. Additionally, it was thought they were staying together farther away from beaches because they were calving and protecting their babies from sharks. No foul play was suspected when the dolphins were not visiting Monkey Mia, but it must have been a relief to have some of them return. Climate change is causing unusual weather, and has been documented to be also altering some animal behavior, but in this case the dolphins’ activity was normal.
The dolphins have been visiting the beaches there, due to people feeding them daily. Rangers from the Department of Environment and Conservation oversee the dolphin feeding. Tourists gather to observe the dolphins feeding in shallow water. It isn’t only tourism that has benefited from the dolphins presence though; researchers have been studying the Monkey Mia dolphins for years as well.
Several thousand bottlenose dolphins live in Shark Bay, about 500 miles north of Perth. Shark Bay is the site of a marine park and largest seagrass meadows in the world. Many other marine species live there also. A resort at Monkey Mia is available for visitors to sleep and eat at when they tour the area.
Image Credit: Mark O’Neil DigitalTribes.com