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Photo-Identification: A Reliable and Noninvasive Tool for Studying Pink River Dolphins (Inia geoffrensis)
Abstract: Photo-identification is an important tool for studying cetacean residence patterns, population size, movements, and social structure. This knowledge directs conservation and management. We examined the reliability of photo-identification studies of pink river dolphins (Inia geoffrensis) with the hope of encouraging long-term population monitoring programs. From February 2007 to August 2009, 12 surveys were conducted in two locations of the Colombian Amazon and Orinoco river basins. We obtained 795 suitable digital photographs of Inia dolphins. We evaluated the reliability and duration of photo-identification by describing and evaluating the permanence and consistency of eight mark-types. Marks were categorized as reliable (pigmentation patterns on the dorsal ridge, nicks, bends, and wounds) or supplementary based on their prevalence in the population, and gain and loss rates. We created a catalog of well-marked animals, defined as individuals with at least two reliable marks (55% of the images analyzed for this purpose). It contained photographs of the right side of 57 individuals and the left side of 40 individuals. There were 16 individuals with resightings over a 23-mo period. Future field surveys should use digital cameras with long lenses and fast shutter speeds in areas where dolphins are conspicuous when surfacing.
Key Words: pink river dolphins, Inia geoffrensis, Amazon, Orinoco, marks, photo-identification
Document Type: Research article
Page Numbers: 472-485