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A crew member holding a drone near the pool with dolphins swimming nearby.

Dolphin Mother and Baby Provide Valuable Insights for University of Hawaii Wild Dolphin Drone Study  

Waikoloa, Hawaii – (September 10, 2020) – Dolphin Quest Hawaii is excited to announce a collaborative scientific drone study aimed at better understanding the health of wild dolphin populations.

Through voluntary participation in Dolphin Quest’s collaborative studies with the University of Hawaii, a resident dolphin mother and her new calf are helping scientists better understand the increasing pressures on wild dolphin populations like Hawaii’s spinner dolphins. Scientists are concerned that the proximity of tour boats and frequent human activity in the spinner dolphins’ environment, while they are in a resting state, are disrupting the dolphins’ natural behaviors, which may be adversely affecting their reproduction.

Fabien Vivier, a scientist with the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Marine Mammal Research Program, had the following to say about his study incorporating new drone technology:

“The baseline data we are able to gather observing this dolphin with a drone before and after the birth gives us new information for detecting pregnancy in the wild from the drone’s perspective. Studying dolphins at Dolphin Quest is really helpful, because it allows us to verify our methodologies at a specific known stage of pregnancy, which couldn’t be accomplished working only in the wild. This information is quite relevant to studying and conserving other species such as Hawaii’s spinner dolphins because, even though the species are different, they share many similarities. If we are able to detect pregnancy from a drone perspective in the bottlenose dolphin, the likelihood of detecting pregnancy in a spinner dolphin is very good”.

University of Hawaii Drone Study:

Not only is continuing reproduction supporting critical wildlife conservation, it is good for the  dolphin social group. “Reproduction and calf-rearing is important for dolphin welfare. It is a natural and enriching social behavior for dolphins in the wild and in modern zoos, aquariums and marine life parks”, says Dr. Holley Muraco, Ph.D., Marine Mammal Reproduction Specialist. “Accredited facilities like Dolphin Quest have excellent reproductive success which leads to long-term population sustainability and eliminates the need for collection from the wild.”

Dr. Holly Muraco shares insights on dolphin reproduction and welfare:

While the Dolphin Quest team has observed successful dolphin births over the years, most people have never seen a newborn dolphin calf up close, watched the dolphins’ social group care for a young calf or observed how the dolphin manages to nurse while swimming underwater. Visitors are invited to witness this very special time in a dolphin’s early development. Dolphin Quest’s Baby Dolphin Encounter Program gives guests an opportunity to interact with dolphins, learn about their care and observe the dolphin mother and her calf. Reservations can be made here.

Dolphin Quest’s experiential learning programs have been modified with enhanced safety measures due to COVID-19, and guest participation supports vital marine mammal conservation, education and scientific study.


About Dolphin Quest

Created by two renown marine mammal veterinarians, Dolphin Quest is accredited by the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums and is American Humane Certified. Dolphin Quest has contributed over $5,000,000 in funding and field support for critical scientific studies around the globe, resulting in over 130 published peer reviewed scientific studies. Click here for more information about the scientific studies made possible by Dolphin Quest.

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