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The bottlenose dolphin is a cosmopolitan species inhabiting  both tropical and temperate oceans.

Although the species is considered in general to be ‘safe’, some regional and local populations are certainly at risk of disappearing. This seems to be the situation for bottlenose dolphins off the coast of Argentina with recent studies showing low total abundance.

There are two genetically and morphologically distinct coastal populations of bottlenose dolphin to be found in Argentinean coastal waters although since the 1990s, sightings have decreased drastically along the entire coastline and today they are mainly concentrated in Northern Patagonia.

Since 2011, WDC has been supporting research and conservation activities in the Río Negro Estuary in Northern Patagonia undertaken by Fundación Cethus. Research includes visual, acoustic and stranding’s surveys as well as an educational programme.

Using photo-identification, 17 individual dolphins have been catalogued at Rio Negro estuary by our team with 12 of them observed approximately 200km west at Bahía San Antonio by another research team.




The project aims to reduce threats to bottlenose dolphins and their habitat, develop sustainable management measures and protect this environment for future generations. To do this we need to:

  • To increase scientific understanding of bottlenose dolphins in the Rio Negro Estuary by assessing biological and ecological parameters such as distribution, abundance, behaviour and population status. By analysing dead stranded dolphins we can learn a lot including possible cause of death, age of the individual, age at sexual maturity and diet. Additionally, tissue samples are taken for subsequent genetic and inorganic trace element analysis,
  • Strengthen community stewardship and build local capacity, so local people understand the value of abundant natural resources and are skilled to deliver the conservation work.
  • Establish land-based responsible whale/dolphin watching using the best practices based on worldwide experience.
  • Advocate or the establishment of a Regional Nature Reserve through collaboration with the Provincial and local authorities and in collaboration with the local stakeholders, including the fishing community.
  • Actively engage with the current selection process for sensitive ecological areas in Argentina by providing data and information to ensure that the Rio Negro Estuary is declared as such an area.

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Orca - Rob Lott


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