For the first time, humpback whales in the waters of Madagascar are being tracked via satellite in the quest to learn more about the travels of these marine mammals. During the last week of July and the first week of August, an international research team from CETAMADA (Madagascar), University of Paris (France), Instituto Aqualie (Brazil), and Wild- life Conservation Society (USA and Madagas- car) succeeded in affixing satellite tags to 12 adult whales in the waters of Saint-Marie Island, just south of Antongil Bay (with the financial support of WCS, Total Foundation and CETAMADA).
The tags have enabled con- servationists to remotely follow the whales as they navigate Madagascar’s waters, move
between areas within the Southwest Indian Ocean, and eventually move South on an annual migration that is poorly understood and nearly impossible to follow directly. The waters of Madagascar are one of the impor- tant destinations for Southern Hemisphere humpback whales in the Western Indian Ocean during the Austral winter months; it is estimated by WCS scientists that approxi- mately 7,000-8,000 individual whales mi- grate to Madagascar every year. Madagas- car’s Antongil Bay and Sainte Marie Island are some of the specific areas sought by humpback whales during the breeding and calving season.
During the summer months, humpbacks migrate south toward Antarctica,
but where exactly they go is unknown. The ability to follow individual animals remotely for extended periods of time will give conser-
vationists critical information on the full range of ecological needs, important habitats, and potential threats for this population.