The seasonal movements and dynamics of migrating humpback whales off the east coast of Africa
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Data collected during boat-based and aerial surveys were used to describe population structure, movements, temporal patterns of migration and skin condition of humpback whales in breeding sub-stock C1-S off southern Africa. Results confirmed that the migration route along the south coast of South Africa is linked to the winter ground off Mozambique. A lack of exchange between breeding sub-stocks C1-N and C1-S was found, suggesting that these are independent of each other. Molecular analysis revealed unexpected levels of population structure between the migration route and the winter ground of C1-S, as well as the possibility that this migration route is also utilised by some individuals from breeding sub-stock C3. A skin condition of unknown aetiology that primarily affects humpback whale mother-calf pairs was identified. The first assessment of its prevalence and severity was made, providing a baseline for future monitoring. Humpback whale abundance in an inshore region of Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique was estimated and attempts were also made to use the limited information off Plettenberg Bay/Knysna, South Africa. In addition to improving our understanding of humpback whales from Breeding Stock C, knowledge about another baleen whale species utilising the southwest Indian Ocean was extended. The first evidence of southern right whale presence off the coast of Mozambique since the cessation of whaling was documented. It remains unknown whether this is a remnant sub-stock or the recovering South African sub-stock reoccupying its historical range.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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