Cambodian Marine Mammal Project

The Irrawaddy dolphin

Irrawaddy dolphins are distributed in rivers, lakes, estuaries and coastal water throughout Southeast Asia. They are considered 'Endangered' on the IUCN's list of threatened species (IUCN, 2017), primarily due to their declining and fragmented populations.   In Kep, the species plays an essential role in maintaining balanced and healthy ecosystems, in a region heavily impacted by Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing. However, exposure to such fishing activities is having detrimental effects on population health, due to bycatch, habitat destruction and prey depletion.

The Irrawaddy dolphins are slow moving and less energetic than other well known dolphin species, making them difficult to spot, especially in rougher seas. This also means they are much more vulnerable to by catch in fishing nets - we found 4 carcasses in 4 months from November to February in the first year of the project. We don't often see them jumping out of the water or bow riding our boats, and as soon as a boat with a loud engine (a trawler) is in the area of the dolphins they quickly disappear.

'The Cambodian Marine Mammal Conservation Project' was established in September 2017 by Non-Governmental Organisation Marine Conservation Cambodia, to support the conservation of this endangered species. Specifically, the project is currently working in collaboration with the Cambodian Fisheries Administration, to collect robust scientific data that can be used to design tailored conservation strategies for the species.

The Irrawaddy dolphins have not been studied in the coastal waters of Cambodia, and so far not much is known about the population here. This makes our research of vital importance to establish the current baseline in the hopes of conserving the population.

Our research methods: 
-Land and boat surveys for behaviour observation study;
-Photo-identification techniques;
-Passive Acoustic Monitoring;
-Aerial surveys. 
-Social science.

Aside from collecting scientific data, our team is working to educate local fishers and community members, as well as national Fisheries Administration Officers, in marine mammals and their importance within the ecosystem.

We are also working with local schools and students at school in Phnom Penh to educate young minds, get them involved in science, marine conservation, and to hopefully fell some ownership and responsibility towards their local marine environment.

We are carrying out our research in the most basic way, relying on gaps in the weather to be able to spot these elusive animals. We are also using Passive Acoustic Monitoring to record the dolphins 24/7 when they are within a 1km range of the island. And all of this data needs to be analysed...

All of our research costs money, from the boat fuel for surveys, to buying binoculars to see the dolphins; camera's and lenses with enough zoom to take good photo's for identification to a C-POD for record the sounds of the underwater world so that we can identify the frequency used by the Irrawaddy dolphins for communication; building the land shelters so that we can look for dolphins from the island stations to buying a theodolite, GPS and compass so that we can pinpoint the exact location of dolphin sightings.

The biggest group of dolphins we have spotted so far has been 32, with 26 individuals having been identified through PhotoID.

We have also had the Kep Archipelago MFMA (marine fisheries management area) recently designated as an Important Marine Mammal Area (IMMA) (IUCN Marine Mammals Protected Areas Taskforce, 2019).

       Our project is always in need of financial help, to keep our research activities going.  Any a donation, big or small, is always greatly appreciated, and put to the most valuable use! 

                                                      SPONSOR A DOLPHIN! 

Basic Sponsorship

If you would like to opt for the Basic Sponsorship, you will  receive the following: 

- 1x Cambodian Marine Marine Mammal Conservation Project T-shirt.
- Monthly updates on your dolphin for a 1 year period.
- Monthly project updates for a 1 year period.
- Copies of all project reports and publications as they come out, for the duration of the project. 

Donation required:  $100 

Premium Sponsorship

If you would like to opt for the Premium Sponsorship, you will be able to name an unnamed dolphin, with a name of your choice. In addition, you will receive the following:

- 2x Cambodian Marine Marine Mammal Conservation Project T-shirts.
- Monthly updates on your dolphin for the duration of the project.
- Monthly project updates for the duration of the project. 
- Copies of all project reports and publications as they come out, for the duration of the project. 

Donation required:  $250 

If you would like to know more about us, please check out our website and Facebook page, follow us on instagram, or email: [email redacted] 



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