Dolphin visits likely to double

Kate Fielding, SOUTH WESTERN TIMESSouth Western Times

Dolphin numbers in Bunbury are predicted to swell this month, as the bottlenose creatures head inshore for the summer.

The Dolphin Discovery Centre's Interaction Zone is already seeing a boom in numbers, according to centre marine biologist Phil Coulthard.

The zone had 82 visits from dolphins last month and Mr Coulthard said he expected that to double in December.

During November, the Interaction Zone was averaging three visits a day from Koombana Bay's marine residents.

"That average is already growing and will definitely hit five a day in December," Mr Coulthard said.

He said the increase was normal for summer as the warmer temperature was a cue for dolphins to start grouping up and "looking for love".

"During summer the number of visits goes up - there are more dolphins within the confines of the Koombana Bay area and they're here for a lot longer for summer," he said.

The increase has also prompted a warning for boat users, who are being asked to take care out on the water.

Mr Coulthard said there was some concern around the impact on dolphins heading into the Christmas break.

"Boat users should follow the Department of Parks and Wildlife and Dolphin Discovery Centre's recommendations, particularly around newborns," he said.

The centre is expecting at least 15 new calves in the months between December and March.

It comes as three "winter babies" have been welcomed into Bunbury's dolphin community, including Aurora who was named last week.

The success rate for winter calf survival is considered lower than summer calves due to exposure to colder water.

But Mr Coulthard said all three newborns were fortunately seen together on Tuesday morning.

He said Bunbury residents were lucky to have dolphin interaction "right here on our doorstep" and they should take advantage at the Interaction Zone.

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