The Pacific Ocean off of Ecuador encompasses important habitats for 27 marine mammal species and the Amazon basin is home to otters, manatees, and 2 species of dolphin. Since 1996, Nazca Institute researchers, in cooperation with foreign NGO’s such as Yaqu Pacha, have been studying the population biology, behaviour and conservation issues regarding the marine and aquatic mammals of Ecuador.
The Ecuadorian coastal habitats, especially in the provinces of Manabí and Esmeraldas, are preferred breeding grounds of the South Eastern Pacific Humpback whale population. From June to October, we have accompanied the whales every year since 1996 to monitor population size, distribution and the impact of whale watching tourism on their natural behaviour. Since 2000 have worked in close cooperation with fishermen in Esmeraldas, combining whale watching with our normal research activities.
During the breeding season from June to September, humpback males breach to attract females, while receptive females call the males slapping their flippers on the surface
Humpback whales can be individually identified by their fluke patterns. By now, Nazca scientists identified more than 400 whales in the breeding grounds off Esmeraldas and Machalilla
With our photo ID catalogues of the whale’s flukes, peduncle knobs and dorsal fins, we can follow their migration patterns along the Ecuadorian and South American coast. Besides the humpback whale research, the aim of the Marine Mammals Program is to study all other species and to improve the knowledge of marine mammal populations of continental Ecuador and the Galápagos.
In association with the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ), we train Ecuadorian and international students in marine mammal research in Esmeraldas during courses on the ecology of marine mammals held as a regular three credit course at USFQ.
Nazca Institute does not offer volunteer programs within the marine mammal projects.