Level 3 Countryside & Wildlife students have returned from the trip of a lifetime with the Atlantic Whale Foundation (AWF) in Puerto Colon, Tenerife.
The AWF have been monitoring Short-Finned Pilot Wales and Bottlenose Dolphins for the last 25 years to try and establish population sizes and the effect the charter boats have on their behaviour.
Staff and students went out on the charter boats each day and recorded the numbers of each species, their sex, the exact time and location of each interaction and took photographs of the whales’ and dolphins’ dorsal fins so that they could identify the individual animals when they returned to the research centre.
To date over 600 individual Pilot Whales have been identified with a population estimated at over 800. The whales are attracted to the deep water just off the coast where there is an abundance of food.
The students’ day started at 8am when they were taken down to the port, whilst aboard the boats they recorded the interactions and encouraged holiday-makers to sign a petition to save the critically endangered Vaquita porpoise which is threatened as bycatch from trawler fishing the in Gulf of Mexico.
They also spoke to the passengers about the AWF and the work they are doing to increase awareness of the threats to whale and dolphin populations. By the end of the week students were able to lead their own groups of volunteers based on their newly gained knowledge.
The study tour underpinned what the students had already learnt in terms of conservation and the human threats to marine species and gave them new knowledge and skills that will enhance their CV’s and their employability in the future.
Tutor Neil Willson said: “The students had a wonderful time and were really excited at the prospect of seeing whales and dolphins every day. The data recording they undertook will provide further valuable data for AWF. They have also had the opportunity to develop their interpersonal skills when talking to the passengers and working in a team, which will help them when they go into employment, and a great thing for them to be able to put on their CVs.”
For more information about AWF go to whalenation.org/