Exciting Sightings of Marine Mammals in Seychelles Outer Islands of Desroches and Alphonse
The ICS Conservation Teams on the beautiful islands of Desroches and Alphonse Group have recently been treated to a natural spectacle as migrating humpback whales visited their sheltered waters and seemed in no hurry to leave.
Since mid-August affiliations of humpback whales, including at least one mother and calf pair, have been spotted playing, resting and feeding close to the islands.
Whales inhabit the ocean, but as mammals they must regularly come to the surface to breathe air, as turtles do. The huge spray of warm air produced by whales as they breathe out is called their “blow”. It can be up to three metres high and can be seen from a great distance.
On Desroches, on the morning of Sunday 20th August, the keen eyes of ICS Ranger Jean Claude-Camille spotted the blow of a whale 300 metres from the beach. Closer investigation aboard an IDC boat allowed ICS Conservation Officer Matthew Morgan to identify that it was a mother humpback with her calf. With the collaboration of two other boats, Russcat belonging to the hotel developers and the ICS boat Torti Blanc, the ICS Conservation Team identified at least three whales breaching within the lagoon in the North West and North East.
Humpback whales Megaptera novangliae leave their Southern Ocean feeding grounds each year and migrate north to breed and calve in warm sheltered waters closer to the equator. Mother humpbacks, in particular, often choose to spend time with their calves in lagoons and shallow waters where they have natural protection from predators such as sharks.
Under the GOS-UNDP-GEF Outer Islands Project carried out by ICS, Conservation Teams monitor marine mammals around Desroches, Alphonse, Poivre and Farqhuar with autonomous acoustic recording devices and sightings. Close encounters are rare and very exciting for all involved. Data collected includes: GPS position, swimming direction, numbers, species and behaviour.
Regular monitoring helps to build knowledge of this important subject, which could help the Atolls gain protected status and open new areas of tourism.
Species identified in the Outer Islands in the past include orcas, sperm whales, bottlenose and spinner dolphins and dugongs, among others.
Many marine mammals are listed as vulnerable or endangered on the IUCN Red List, and the data collected in these remote areas helps to build a strong case for global conservation protection.