Project background

Dr Delphine Chabanne from Murdoch University and Associate Professor Chandra Salgado Kent from Edith Cowan University are leading the research into Perth's Swan River dolphin community and investigating how environmental changes in the river and human activities can affect the dolphin community. 

Community involvement is a great boost to the research project and allows information to be gathered on how dolphins use the Canning and upper reaches of the Swan River – areas that experience problems such as low oxygen and algal blooms.

The Swan River dolphin community is small, dependent on a handful of females and living in an urban environment which places a lot of stress on the mammals. Pressures from loss of habitat, increased river usage by boats and other motorised vessels, climate change, entanglement, boat strikes and noise all impact the community.

The public can play an essential role in monitoring this iconic species. Becoming a member of the Dolphin Watch program is a way the community can get directly involved in looking after these beautiful mammals.

What have we learnt?

Have you wondered how many resident dolphins use the Swan Canning Riverpark on a daily basis? Our reseach demonstrates that from 2011-2019, we have had 25-30 resident dolphins using the Riverpark. Unfortunately, the reoccurence of the deadly dolphin disease, Cetacean Morbillivirus (CeMV), contributed to the death of four resident dolphins in 2019.

Have you ever wondered where you should go in the Swan Canning Riverpark to have the best chance of seeing some dolphins? Our heat map below indicates which areas (Dolphin Watch zones) you're most likely to observe dolphins in the Swan Canning Riverpark (sightings per unit of effort)

A heat map demonstrating the parts of the Riverpark that you're most likely to observe dolphins

And have you ever wondered which season is best to spot our resident dolphins? Our 10-year data set of Dolphin Watch data indicates that we have the greatest number of sightings at key locations, in autumn.