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Survival and abundance of short-finned pilot whales in the archipelago of Madeira, NE Atlantic



Estimates of population parameters for the short-finned pilot whale, Globicephala macrorhynchus, are scarce in literature, contributing to an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) status of Data Deficient. In this study, photo-identification data collected over 7 yr from Madeira were used to estimate for the first time survivorship, capture probability, and abundance in this species using mark-recapture methodology. The Cormack-Jolly-Seber model estimated that the adult island-associated (i.e., resident and regular visitor) whales had a constant survival rate of 0.960 (95% CI: 0.853–0.990) and an annual capture probability varying between 0.372 (CI: 0.178–0.619) and 0.843 (CI: 0.619–0.947). A parameterization of the Jolly-Seber model estimated that 140 island-associated whales (CI: 131–151) used the area throughout the course of the study. Based on a closed population model, the most precise (lower CV) annual estimate of the total number of pilot whales using the southern and eastern waters of Madeira (~900 km2) in a 3 mo period covering summer/autumn was 334 animals (CI: 260–437). No trend was observed. Despite including biases, the approach used in this study provided plausible estimates of population parameters, which can contribute to the regional conservation strategies.