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Bunbury’s crab bait thieves

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This might be the craziest and most intriguing dolphin behaviour we have ever seen - local dolphins turn Bunbury crab bait thieves!

The Koombana Bay dolphins in the City of Bunbury are the stars taking it to the next level by learning how to outsmart humans. It is a unique behaviour that has never been filmed before.

Two years ago, wildlife conservationist Rodney Peterson approached the Dolphin Discovery Centre about some dolphins raiding crab pots for bait. The main concern was the welfare of the animals eating unhealthy food, danger of entanglement, and annoying crab fishers. Filming this without interfering was a task. Up to five cameras mixed with local crab knowledge revealed the secrets of the crab bait thieves.

Everyone was stunned by what they saw, and so were researchers Dr Simon Allen and Dr Delphine Chabanne. There is no doubt that dolphins are intelligent. Being brilliant observers, fast learners, and innovators helps the most bold and sophisticated animals to succeed. The dolphins watch as the crab fishers bait their nets. They have worked out how to pull the bait of the hooks in the crab pot. Putting the bait underneath the pot, or in bait boxes, used to deter the dolphins until they learned how to tip them over or open the boxes.

To protect the dolphins from this unhealthy diet and to help crab fishers keep their bait, a solution had to be found. One method proved dolphin safe. The bait is placed inside a strong mesh connected to the pot by metal hook. The animals scan the pot with echolocation and eyesight, learn that cannot be opened, and swim off. Leaving healthier dolphins, happy crabbers, and proof that co-existence can work.

To learn more about dolphins, come to the Dolphin Discovery Centre, or book one of their wild dolphin tours to experience these fascinating animals in their own environment.

Dolphin Discovery Centre

The Dolphin Discovery Centre Bunbury is Australia's premiere wild dolphin experience and just one of the many things to do in Bunbury. The centre offers visitors the free wild dolphin Interaction Zone at Koombana Beach right in front of the Centre. During the warmer months bottlenose dolphins visit this area frequently in the morning. Under licence and the guidance of volunteers interactions with dolphins are permitted by standing knee-to-waist deep in a line in the water were dolphins swim along. A fantastic opportunity getting close to dolphins.

The 'Interpretive Centre' inside (chargeable) comprises of 14 Aquaria, live feeding sessions, baby rescue-turtle station, the world’s only 360-degree digital dolphinarium, sharks, octopus, lots of Interactive Displays, Discovery Pool, 3D/2D Movie and Theatre, plus much more to investigate and learn about our precious marine environment. We do not keep dolphins in captivity.

Our Dolphin-Eco-Cruise (90mins) in the calm waters of Koombana Bay is the best way to see and experience bottlenose dolphins in their environment. On the custom-built boat with its large viewing platform, you can see dolphins frolicking, playing, sleeping, and feeding without getting your feet wet.

The award winning 'swim with the dolphins' tour runs from November - April and is the most thrilling and exciting dolphin experience (3-4 hours). Join for an intimate swim with wild dolphins in their natural environment. You will be accompanied by our experienced guide and trained volunteers as you venture into the beautiful waters of Koombana Bay. All equipment, snack and drinks are provided.  

As a charity the DDC is focused on conservation, education, and research funded through ecotourism.