Last week, four new dolphins were sighted in the Mandurah estuary area, bringing the total of newborn calves this year to 13.
The latest calf, first sighted on March 9, has been named 'Frankl' by Dawesville MP Lisa Munday, who had arranged the first ever forum on Mandurah's dolphins, held February 14.
According to a Facebook comment by Ms Munday on the Estuary Guardians Mandurah Facebook page, the name Frankl comes from Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor who, 'believed that purposeful work, love, and courage were the three main sources of meaning in life.'
Harry Butler Institute of Murdoch University researcher Dr Krista Nicholson said this year was special as five of the calves had been born to first-time mothers in the estuary.
Researchers have been following the resident pod of dolphins in Mandurah's waterways for some time, keeping tabs on newborns and tracking their movements over the years.
Dr Nicholson said researchers were aware of three generations of Indo-Pacific bottle nose dolphins in the estuary; a grandmother, mother and newborn calf.
This is not unusual to find in dolphins, as the species often remains in their community.
Females and their calves are very resident, however males tend to move around more.
"We know them so well, that part is quite unique," Dr Nicholson said.
She noted that in the Peel-Harvey catchment, it's clear that mothers, calves, adult males and juvenile groups had been with the Mandurah pod for some time
Researchers are able to keep tabs on dolphins by taking notes and photographs of nicks and notches on their dorsal fins, as these are unique to every individual.
They have also collected genetic samples which are used to confirm relatedness.
The number of newborn calves this year is on the higher end of the average, which is between five and 13 new dolphins each year, according to Dr Nicholson.
"It varies so much because it's directly proportional to how many females are reproductively active at that time.
"Dolphin calves stay with their mothers between two to three years, some are already with calves so unable to produce another.
"A mother will have a calf about every three years. What is really special in this community, because we have such good information, we've established that all the females who are available to have a calf, have had a calf.
"We say the community is at its reproductive capacity, it's producing as many calves as the community can," Dr Nicholson revealed.
Unfortunately, one newborn calf was lost in January 2022, though Dr Nicholson said this was not too alarming.
"We always lose some calves, it's just bound to happen, but it doesn't make it any nicer.
"That's one thing to keep in mind is to give first time mothers space, it's shown in other places that first time mothers have higher rates of losing calves than more experienced mothers," Dr Nicholson said.
She noted that it can be tempting to follow dolphins in boats, as they are interesting creatures.
However, Dr Nicholson warned that dolphins, especially calves and newborn mothers, need space.
"It's important for people to remember that, especially now that we have those first time mothers, they're just figuring their way out how to look after a baby.
"Just observe from afar.
"Generally in Mandurah, people are quite good, it's quite often the visitors to the area who don't do the right thing," Dr Nicholson said, adding that high traffic areas like the Mandurah estuary and Dawesville Cut was where most fatalities and dangerous behaviour from humans occured.
Dr Nicholson said the next project she was working on was figuring out the paternity of dolphins in the Mandurah estuary pod.
This research will reveal if any inbreeding has occurred and the genetic health of the population.
The research is being funded by the City of Mandurah, Peel Development Commission and philanthropists John and Bella Perry.
It is a large project that requires many volunteers.
Dr Nicholson said for anyone interested, especially university students studying in a related field, to keep an eye on the Mandurah Dolphin Research Facebook Page, for advertisements and opportunities.
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