African Marine Mammal Colloquium (AMMC) - A Meeting of Marine Mammal Minds

May 28, 2016 Meredith Thornton

The 4th biennial meeting of the African Marine Mammal Colloquium (AMMC) was recently hosted and organised by the Dyer Island Conservation Trust, together with the Mammal Research Institute of the University of Pretoria. The AMMC is open to anyone working with marine mammals in the southern African sub-region and is structured as part workshop, part conference, with all meals and accommodation provided communally as part of the event in order to maximise opportunities for networking.  It was held for the 3rd time at the Great White House in Kleinbaai from 22-27 May.  Delegates gathered under skeletons of bottlenose dolphins and a southern right whale sharing ideas and stories all week long.  A more apt, beautiful and inspiring venue cannot be easily found!

The aim of the AMMC is to bring marine mammalogists, boat-based whale watchers, citizen scientists, conservationists, educators and government together under one roof to share their work and ideas. The colloquium is primarily a means to reduce overlap in research, to facilitate collaboration, develop longer-term, large-scale research plans and projects and to encourage pooling of resources.  Marine mammal research is notoriously expensive as it takes years to collect data on long-lived, elusive creatures such as whales, seals and dolphins.  Fuel for boat-time, equipment and sample processing are daily challenges that marine mammalogists face.  The AMMC forges relationships and data sharing opportunities along our coast that helps to reduce the pressure of some of these issues, which ultimately benefits conservation actions for the animals.

Presentations ranged from research as far afield as seals in the Southern Ocean by Professor Marthán Bester, to reporting on a Decade of Achievement of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust (DICT).  There were talks on acoustics, population studies, citizen science and the impact of seismic surveys on whales and dolphins, to name but a few.  Workshops were also held to compare ID photographs of humpback dolphins all along the western and eastern Cape coastlines and on figuring out strategies for the future of marine mammal research in South Africa.

The DICT has recently expanded their humpback dolphin research by entering into a collaboration with the Mammal Research Institute and Sea Search, gathering data for an extensive project on Indian Ocean humpback dolphins, Sousa plumbea.  The project is part of a larger project called SouSA and here is a photo taken at the AMMC just after the signing of a MoU by several members of the consortium.  Humpback dolphins are South Africa’s most endangered dolphin so this work is of paramount importance to their future.  Our Masters student, Sandra Hoerbst, is in need of better quality camera equipment for collection of our photo ID pictures, so if you would like to learn more about the project and assist by donating towards this cause, please contact


Meredith Thornton
Research Coordinator