In 2011, Dr Isabel Beasley from James Cook University (Australia) first visited Kikori to meet local communities and try to find dolphins in the Delta. Researchers from WWF-PNG and the PNG Museum and Art Gallery had discovered dolphins in the Delta in 1999, and both dolphin species were of interest to Dr Beasley.
These species were originally thought to be Irrawaddy (Orcaella brevirostris) and Indo-Pacific humpback (Sousa chinensis) dolphins. Although the weather was unfavourable with strong winds and rough seas, Dr Beasley and her team managed to sight one group of Irrawaddy dolphins on the last survey day.
This was a great sighting, as the species had not been recorded in PNG since 1999, and were not known to occur in any other location in Papua New Guinea or the Pacific Islands.
In 2013, the Exxon Mobil PNG Ltd (EMPNG) Community Investment Program provided funding to James Cook University to undertake a status assessment of dolphins and dugong (both locally known as ‘Pidu’), in the Kikori Delta region of southwestern PNG.
This project consisted of two expeditions to the Kikori Delta, one in 2013 and one in 2015.
Significant information was gathered during these trips, which included clarification that the two inshore dolphin species present in the Delta are actually Australian snubfin (Orcaella heinsohni) and Australian humpback (Sousa sahulensis) dolphins. In 2015, further funding was provided by EMPNG to initiate a scholarship program for selected PNG Nationals to study at University Papua New Guinea or James Cook University.
The PIDU project is a collaborative project managed by James Cook University (Townsville, Australia) and the Snubfin Dolphin Project (Australian-based NGO). The PIDU project aims to conserve marine mammals and associated habitat in Papua New Guinea, in close cooperation with local communities.
Aims & Objectives
There is very little known about the conservation status of marine mammals in PNG waters. The overall research objectives of the PIDU (dolphin and dugong) project are:
Determine the distribution and estimate abundance of inshore dolphins in the Kikori Delta region.
Investigate inshore dolphin population stock structure and phylogenetic patterns.
Researchers and Students
Contribute towards building capacity of local PNG researchers and students to conduct marine mammal research and conservation projects.
Collaborate with the local community and relevant stakeholders to develop a community-based management plan for marine mammals in the Kikori Delta.
Undertake local community workshops and discussions regarding inshore dolphins in the Kikori region to facilitate a two-way exchange of information to protect and conserve dolphins, associated megafauna and their habitats.
- Initial discussions with villagers
- Reconnaissance boat surveys
- Community workshops (2012)
- Photo-identification boat surveys (2013 and 2015)
- Community consultations and project updates (2013-2015)
- Scholarship program (2016-2019)
- Community consultations and project updates (2019)
- Photo-identification boat surveys (2019)
- Scholarship Program (2020-2023)
- Community consultations and project updates (2020-2023)
- Photo-identification boat surveys (2020-2023)
- Development of Community-based Dolphin Management Plan in collaboration with communities and PBN