Marine Mammals Program



This project was the first scientifically-based conservation initiative cetacean in Kien Giang Biosphere Reserve (KGBR). Our project provides the critical baseline for cetacean conservation in KGBR, an UNESCO designated protected area in Vietnam, where unsustainable fishery is threatening the few remain cetaceans. Without a baseline on distribution, abundance and fishery’s pressures on local cetacean, no further conservation efforts have ever been mobilized to protect those species in KGBR.

So far, we have achieved all our proposed objectives through a variety of activities, including boat-based surveys, semi-structures interviews, awareness raising activities, stakeholder meetings and workshops. The key outcome from our project is the first baseline for cetacean conservation in KGBR. Our baseline consists critical information on cetacean diversity, abundance, distribution as well at the emerging threats they are facing. Prior to the project, the KGBR management broad and local communities have participated in our project, where they provide important information for us, and in return significantly improved their awareness on cetacean conservation. Our baseline has set into motion new conservation initiative which will target the by-catch of cetaceans in KGBR.


Kien Giang Biosphere Reserve (KGBR), an UNESCO designated, is the only location in Vietnam where several vulnerable cetacean species such as the Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris) and the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin (Sousa chinensis) are still being observed in their natural habitat. Unfortunately, unsustainable fishery in this area is threatening the few remained cetaceans. Conservation efforts could not be being implemented because the lack of understanding on those animal’s distributions and abundances.

Our project aims to provide the first robust data on species composition, distribution and abundance of cetaceans, as well as raise awareness of stakeholders (local fishing communities, fishery agencies…) in KGBR on cetacean conservation. This provided our key partner, the KGBR management staff the necessary baseline for their future activities to protect cetacean habitat in KGBR.


The overall goal of our project is to implement long term, multidiscipline approached conservation programs to protect cetaceans and their habitat in KGBR with collaboration of local communities and relevant governmental agencies. As the first cetacean conservation project in KGBR, our project need to start by building robust baseline on cetacean in KGBR, including their distribution, abundance, and their interaction with local communities. Such baseline allowed reliable recommendations towards management and conservation to related governmental agencies. Our specific objectives are:

  • The abundance of Cetacean in Kien Giang BR is scientifically estimated
  • Distribution of cetacean in Kien Giang BR is systematically mapped
  • The habitat preference of cetacean in Kien Giang BR are scientifically predicted
  • Threats from fishery to cetacean in Kien Giang BR are clearly identified
  • Kien Giang governmental agencies, especially Kien Giang Biosphere Reserve management broad, Kien Giang fisheries department and local media fully aware of the needs for cetacean conservation in their province.
  • Fishermen aware of effects of fishing gears on cetacean


Ecological research on Cetacean in KGBR

Team members conducted a boat-based survey in Kien Giang BR using established methodology to map species distribution and generate robust estimates of abundance. In combination, we interviewed local communities to collect additional data and raise awareness

Ecological research on Cetacean in KGBR

To improve awareness of local communities on cetacean, we organized ten meetings in fishing villages in KGBR. During those meeting, we also integrated cetacean conservation issues and distributed awareness raising materials (sticker, leaflet, brochures, poster). Depend on each village characteristic, our awareness raising activities might range from interview and distributing posters to interactive games about marine conservation with sections that highlight on cetacean.


Total 51 line transects were conducted to survey an area of approximated 5000km2 . Four on-effort sightings of Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris), two on-effort sightings of Finless porpoise (Neophocaena phocaenoides) and one on-effort sighting of Indo-Paciffic Humpback dolphin (Sousa chinensis) were made during systematic boat-base survey periods.

During this project, 536 photographs of Irrawaddy dolphin were taken. In combination with 2460 photographs of Irrawaddy acquired during opportunistic surveys before this project, a first photographic database for Irrawaddy dolphin in Kien Giang BR was established. From this database, total 42 individuals were recognized.

Ten meetings with local communities in KGBR were organised during this project. In all meetings, local people shared their knowledge on cetacean in KGBR by participating in our interviews and games. During those meeting, we distributed 200 posters, 20 T-shirts and 2000 stickers that carried awareness raising messages on local cetacean conservation to local people.

We also run two workshops with the KGBR management board to deliver our project’s findings, as well as connecting the board with international cetacean researcher to develop detail conservation action based on our baseline results

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