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Dolphins Down Under: Understanding the New Zealand Dolphin

The Clocktowers clock

Tuesday 9 April 2013 9:55am

Dolphins Down Under book coverRelease date: April 2013, Otago University Press. Paperback, 210 x 170 mm, 96 pp, colour throughout.

New Zealand dolphins, also known as Hector’s dolphins, are fascinating and beautiful animals. Found only in New Zealand waters, they are as ‘kiwi’ as the kiwi but their numbers are under threat – especially from human fishing activities.

This book introduces the dolphin to readers of all ages. Liz Slooten and Steve Dawson began their study in 1984. In the 1990s they sold their house to buy a catamaran to carry out a dolphin survey.

They were determined to make the latest information about these creatures accessible to a general public.

“There is a lot of literature on New Zealand dolphins but most of it is in scientific journals,” says Liz. “This book ‘translates’ all of this information into a format that is user friendly, interesting and exciting.”

The authors have intensively studied the dolphin’s distribution, behaviour, biology, reproduction and communication, using photography as their principal research tool.

They pull no punches on conservation questions. Early on in their research they realised that dolphin numbers are not sustainable under current fishing practices. Says Liz, “The last section of the book provides suggestions for effective dolphin protection measures and encourages readers to get actively involved. This part of the book will be controversial in some circles but very popular in other circles.”

The authors’ passion for science – and for the New Zealand dolphin – is obvious and contagious.

“We have tried to make it clear that science is a fascinating, curiosity-driven activity. We did not want to produce ‘a book of facts’.”

About the authors

Liz Slooten is an associate professor in Zoology at the University of Otago. She researches and publishes on reproductive and population biology, population viability analysis, impact of fisheries on marine mammals, marine conservation biology and marine mammal biology.

Steve Dawson is a professor in Marine Science at the University of Otago. He researches and publishes on conservation biology of marine mammals, incidental catch of marine mammals in fisheries, acoustic behaviour and communication in cetaceans, and line-transect surveys for inshore cetaceans.

Their joint dolphin studies led directly to the establishment of the Banks Peninsula Marine Mammal Sanctuary. When they first moved to Otago University they shared a temporary position, which evolved into two full-time lectureships, Liz in Zoology, Steve in Marine Science. Their research on New Zealand dolphins is now one of the longest running dolphin studies worldwide, and has involved many graduate students. Both are members of the IUCN Cetacean Specialist Group and regularly advise government.

Liz especially has played a strong role representing New Zealand at the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission. They are both trustees of the New Zealand Whale and Dolphin Trust. In 2004 Liz and Steve were jointly awarded the New Zealand Royal Society’s Sir Charles Fleming Award for outstanding contribution to conservation science.

For more information, contact:

Rachel Scott
University of Otago Press
Tel (03) 479 9094

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