Dolphin ecology, behavior and conservation Dolphin ecology, behavior and conservation Rangiroa, French Polynesia Dolphins of Rangiroa (DOR)
We are looking for scuba divers and snorkelers to help collecting behavioral data on a small bottlenose dolphin community impacted by wildlife tourism.

7 Project reviews of Dolphins of Rangiroa (DOR)

Project Details

Dolphins of Rangiroa is a NGO dedicated to research, citizen science, conservation, education and information sharing on Rangiroa bottlenose dolphins.


Dolphins of Rangiroa - DOR - is a French Polynesian NGO dedicated to research, citizen science, conservation, education, and information sharing on Rangiroa common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in the Tuamotu Islands, French Polynesia.

Born in 2019, DOR benefits from a 10-year scientific monitoring experience on Rangiroa bottlenose dolphins and a 9-year experience with ecovolunteers from all over the world who join us every year to help the NGO complete its field missions.


We focus our work on 1. A demographic and social monitoring of the bottlenose dolphin community inhabiting Tiputa waters, on the northern part of Rangiroa atoll, and 2. A better understanding of the behaviors observed in these animals as part of their interactions with diving tourism. We are thus interested in each of the dolphins’ history and personality.


French Polynesia is located at the center of the South Tropical Pacific Ocean, between 5° and 30°S and 130° and 155°W. It is composed of five archipelagoes and 121 islands spread over a 5 million-square-kilometer area. The French Polynesian EEZ is one of the most isolated worldwide and stands for almost 50% of the French EEZ. About 20 species of cetaceans may be observed in French Polynesian waters.

Yet 350 kilometers from Tahiti in the northwest Tuamotu Islands, the giant atoll of Rangiroa - ‘Great Sky’ in Paumotu -, a true oasis of life and diversity in the heart of the tropical Pacific, stretches its 170 kilometers of coral reefs, sands, and coconut trees around a 1,600-square-kilometer area with waters so fish-laden that it has become one of the world's top diving destinations. The atoll's impressive size - 80 kilometers long by 20 kilometers wide on average - and its two large passes, Avatoru and Tiputa, make it home to marine wildlife as exceptional as it is impressive.

French Polynesia enjoys a very mild tropical climate and is equipped with modern infrastructures. No vaccinations are required to come and stay there.


Since 2009, DOR's research director has been studying the bottlenose dolphin community inhabiting the northern part of Rangiroa atoll. Her work mainly focuses on the impacts of tourist activities on the dolphins’ behavior. Indeed, these animals are targeted daily by commercial and non commercial ‘dolphin watching’ activities. Literature and the media have endowed cetaceans with a reputation that predisposes people to expect friendly interactions with free-ranging dolphins. Theme parks and aquaria, where people can touch, feed and swim with captive dolphins, enhance this reputation.

The popularity of marine mammal viewing activities can result in conservation and socioeconomic benefits for the animals and local communities alike if they are conducted responsibly and with care, in accordance with existing regulations that protect these iconic species. However, if sighting activities are not conducted appropriately, they can place marine mammals at significant risk of harassment, injury or death.

Some of Rangiroa dolphins have been conditioned on the medium to long term to tolerate or even seek out physical contact with scuba divers and snorkelers. Such a situation raises concerns about the risks related to unmanaged interactions between humans and wild dolphins. These risks include:

1. An increase in the number of accidents involving dolphins and divers through, for example, ‘pushy’ behaviours or intimidation attempts from the dolphins and / or divers forgetting basic diving safety rules;

2. Disease transmission from the dolphins to humans and vice versa;

3. An increased vulnerability to human activities of dolphins which have become too familiar to human presence - loss of vigilance toward human activities -, resulting in collisions with boats, propeller injuries, fishing gear entanglement, etc.;

4. Reduced overall behavioural repertoires, compromising ‘wildness’;

5. Changes in ranging and social patterns;

6. The implementation of an ‘open water dolphinarium’ situation lacking basic educational components


The research and conservation works of DOR are as follows:

1. Long-term demographic and ecological monitoring of the Tiputa bottlenose dolphin community - abundance, community structure, site fidelity, social organization, reproduction parameters, kinship, diet.

2. Long-term ethological monitoring to describe and better understand the impacts of tourism on the dolphins’ behaviors and identify the risks associated with close interactions between dolphins and divers or snorkelers.

3. Awareness campaigns aiming at sharing our results and recommendations with the general public to help improving the relationships between humans and wildlife.


We are looking for committed divers and snorkelers who are ready to support our work. You must know that in Rangiroa as elsewhere, there are safety rules to respect with the animals, whether dolphins, sharks, rays, moray eels and other large or small marine wildlife. In order to preserve the animals' welfare and sea users' safety, please do not touch and / or feed the animals. Understand more to care more is an essential axis of our work. No touching, no feeding, no teasing: respect them, respect us!


Ceta’Diving is a participative tool for the demographic, ecological and ethological monitoring of a small and protected bottlenose dolphin community. It will allow you to observe and better understand these animals' routine, issues related to their conservation and learn more about the paradoxical relationships between humans and wildlife while helping DOR to sustain its dolphin monitoring program.

The main focus of the project is on
NPO Status
Yes, registered non-profit organization
Foundation Year
Contact Person
Pamela Carzon
Pamela Carzon
Spoken Languages

Social Impact

At the local level, DOR has forged several partnerships with environmental NGOs and laboratories (e.g. Center for Insular Research and Observatory of the Environment, Institute for Research and Development) for the safeguarding of the Polynesian natural heritage.

At the French level, we are currently co-supervising a PhD thesis in collaboration with the École Pratique des Hautes Études - Paris. DOR's research coordinator also participates in the production of scientific papers and documentaries on wildlife behavior and tourism issues. She is an active member of the French National Stranding Network and collaborates with multiple researchers. She also participates in aerial censuses of cetaceans and seabirds overseas - REMMOA campaigns 2011, 2014 and 2017 - with the Observatoire Pélagis of La Rochelle - Marine Mammal Research Center.

Pursued Sustainable Development Goals

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