Feb. 25 - Scientists and indigenous rangers have teamed up in Australia to find out more about the shy snubfin dolphin, a recently discovered species that may need protection. Rob Muir reports.
The snubfin dolphin is a mystery to science. It inhabits the warm waters of northern Australia but little else is known about the animal. It was described as a new species only eight years ago. (SOUNDBITE) ISABEL BEASLEY, JAMES COOK UNIVERSITY SAYING: "Previously it was thought to be the Irrawaddy dolphin which is a species that occurs in Asia so we just recently discovered it, and it's actually endemic to Australia, it's found no where else in the world." Isabel Beasley from James Cook University wants to know more about the snubfin. It's extremely rare but without more data it cannot be listed as endangered, and cannot be protected under law. (SOUNDBITE) ISABEL BEASLEY, JAMES COOK UNIVERSITY SAYING: "No idea where it occurs, why it occurs in these areas or what may be some of the main threats in some of these areas." Beasley fears the snubfin may vulnerable, like many other species, to such human-induced threats as habitat degradation, over-fishing and by-catch. Joining the mission are indigenous sea rangers, like Phil Rist. (SOUNDBITE) PHIL RIST, GIRRINGUN ABORIGINAL CORPORATION SAYING: "In a lot of ways we are the eyes and ears, the Girringun area is the home lands of nine traditional owner groups and we've been here for thousands of years." (SOUNDBITE) ISABEL BEASLEY, JAMES COOK UNIVERSITY SAYING: "We're hoping that this project can contribute more information, particularly on broad scale distribution that can contribute to it actually being listed as a threatened species." And if they can do that Beasley says, the snub fin dolphin stands a better chance of long term survival.