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A photo-identification study of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) was conducted between 1996 and 1999 in the Machalilla National Park off mainland Ecuador. This paper compares the results obtained with those from known breeding grounds for humpback whales to determine whether the area represents a breeding area for this species. Factors considered included: seasonality in abundance; population structure (including cow-calf pairs and escort whales) in the breeding area; presence of singers; and occupancy and residence times. It is concluded that the area does represent a breeding ground but the relationship of the animals using this area with those using other areas of the eastern tropical Pacific (and the Antarctic feeding grounds) requires further work. The paper also presents a preliminary estimate of abundance (405, 95%CI 221-531) for the years 1998/1999 using the Chapman-modified Peterson method.
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