New Zealand dolphin saves beached whales

This video from New Zealand is called Summer at Mahia swimming with Moko the bottlenose dolphin.

From the New Zealand Herald:

Moko the dolphin helps locals save whales from beaching

6:00AM Wednesday March 12, 2008

It could have been a scene from a movie when Mahia‘s Moko the dolphin came out of nowhere to save two pygmy sperm whales from what looked like certain death.

The playful dolphin, who has set up home around Mahia on the East Coast, was the perfect helper on Monday as Department of Conservation worker Malcolm Smith toiled to refloat the mother whale and her one-year-old male calf.

Mr Smith received a call early Monday morning to say the two whales had stranded on the south end of Mahia Beach.

“Generally speaking when pygmy sperm whales strand they end up dying, or they are refloated only to strand again later in the day and die.

“We worked for over an hour to try to get them back out to sea … but they kept getting disorientated and stranding again.

“There is a large sandbar just off the shore so that could have been very confusing for them – they obviously couldn’t find their way back past it to the sea.”

After about four unsuccessful refloating attempts it was becoming highly likely the pair would have to be euthanased.

“The whales were getting tired and I was getting cold when Moko turned up,” he said.

“It was amazing. We’d been working for about an hour-and-a-half when the dolphin came directly up to us.

“[Moko] had them moving parallel to the shore – for about 200 metres or so – within about a minute.”

“The whales were sitting on the surface of the water quite distressed, they had arched their backs and were calling to one another, but as soon as the dolphin turned up they submerged into the water and followed her.”

Moko led the whales about 200m along the beach towards the headland then led the pair all the way out to sea.

“The things that happen in nature never cease to amaze me.

“It was looking like it was going to be a bad outcome for the whales which was very disappointing and then Moko just came along and fixed it.”

Mr Smith said it was quite possible Moko had heard the whales calling.

“She obviously gave them enough guidance to leave the area because we haven’t seen them since.”

Moko however was seen straight after – the playful dolphin swam straight back close to shore to play with local residents.


Moko is a bottlenose dolphin.

214 Environmental Organisations Lobby New Zealand Government Over Rare Dolphins: here.

Pygmy right whale: here. And here.

3 thoughts on “New Zealand dolphin saves beached whales

  1. Fishing Nets Threaten Rare NZ Dolphin

    Wednesday March 19, 9:54 am ET

    By Ray Lilley, Associated Press Writer
    Nets Threaten Rare New Zealand Dolphin, Environmentalists Say

    WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The deaths of 22 dolphins in trawler nets prompted fresh calls Wednesday for the New Zealand government to ban two types of fishing nets from the habitats of two critically endangered species of dolphin.

    The World Wildlife Fund said that Maui’s dolphins, which are found only along North Island’s west coast and are on the brink of extinction, urgently need protection from set nets and trawler nets if they are to survive.

    Official estimates are that just 111 Maui’s dolphins still live in the wild.

    Set nets are used by recreational fishers near the coastline, while large trawl nets are used further out to sea in commercial fishing to catch large schools of fish.

    The numbers for another endangered New Zealand species, the Hector’s dolphin, have declined from an estimated 29,000 in the 1970s to 7,000 currently.

    Photographs of 22 common dolphins killed in trawler nets off North Island’s west coast last December — released by the government Tuesday — were proof that current fishing controls are failing to protect endangered dolphins, said Chris Howe, the executive director of the WWF’s New Zealand branch.

    The deaths showed that the fishing industry cannot be trusted to follow the voluntary code of practice that currently protects the species, he said. The government-imposed code was set up to minimize accidental capture of dolphins during trawl fishing.

    “All fishing with set nets and trawl nets should be banned throughout the range of Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins,” Howe told The Associated Press.

    “That’s the only way to ensure a slow-breeding, rare species can recover,” he said.

    Conservation Minister Steve Chadwick said she was “not surprised” that conservation groups are calling for nets to be withdrawn.

    “We’ll have to consider how realistic that is while we also have sustainable fishing and how we will manage protection of those endangered species,” she told the AP.

    Owen Symmans, chief executive of the New Zealand Seafood Industry Council, said the “accidental capture” of 22 dolphins was regrettable.

    “Nobody wants to catch dolphins, common or otherwise, and fishermen … feel gutted about this sort of thing,” he said. “It’s the last thing that they want in their nets.”

    He said trawlers move away “as soon as dolphin are seen,” and the industry is committed to trying to avoid such events.

    The government is due to release options for ways to further protect Maui’s and Hector’s dolphins, part of its response to conservation groups’ demands.

    About 214 international environmental and animal protection bodies urged New Zealand in a letter Wednesday to give “full protection” to the endangered Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins to prevent their extinction.

    “Maui’s dolphins, the world’s smallest dolphin, are one of the rarest animals on earth and Hector’s dolphins are almost as scarce as tigers,” Care for the Wild International’s Chief Executive Barbara Maas wrote in the letter.

    Conservationists already have warned that even the best of the proposals will give the endangered dolphins only a 50-50 chance of recovering to their original numbers by 2050.

    While many fishing boats obeyed the voluntary code of practice, it only took one or two who did not to wipe out the fragile species, Howe said.


  2. ABC, Wednesday April 23, 02:48 PM

    Rare whale rescued off SA coast

    A rare pygmy killer whale has been rescued off South Australia’s west coast.

    The whale was found washed up near Ceduna yesterday.

    It is the first sighting of the species in South Australian waters.

    The National Parks Service says a team has helped take it out to sea, but it may beach itself again.

    The whale was identified by the curator of mammals at the South Australian Museum, Dr Catherine Kemper.

    “They’re a tropical animal so they don’t live in our colder waters down here,” she said.

    “I suspect this one would have come around perhaps on the Leeuwin Current, that’s a very warm current that comes around the corner of WA.

    “It’s a small animal about the size of a large dolphin but it looks different from a dolphin because it doesn’t have a beak, so it’s got this kind of bulbous head and it’s kind of cute because it’s got white lips, it’s got this white marking around the mouth and that makes it quite distinctive.”


  3. ABC, Thursday April 24, 11:18 AM
    Rare whale dead

    A rare pygmy killer whale found washed up on South Australia’s west coast has died.

    Rescuers had helped it out to sea on Tuesday after it became stranded near Ceduna, in what was the first sighting of the species in South Australian waters.

    The environment department says it was found dead on the beach yesterday afternoon.

    An autopsy will be done at the South Australian Museum.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.