Saturday, April 05, 2008

Is friendly dolphin in danger due to tourist's attention?

Moko, the playful dolphin which has been charming beachgoers and water users at the East Coast's Mahia Beach, is potentially in danger as a result of all the attention he has attracted.
The dolphin has been thrilling visitors to the beach by frolicking in the shallows, happily swimming with people in the water and playing around boats.

Earlier this month, Moko saved two pygmy sperm whales from stranding, guiding a mother whale and her one-year-old male calf out to sea.

Hawke's Bay environmentalist Dave Head said he had noticed an increasing number of scratches on the dolphin.

"The biggest concern I have is that a bunch of hairy-legged, boozy city dwellers will come down for a fishing weekend and get mad at Moko for scaring away the fish, and possibly take a swipe," he told The Gisborne Herald.

Mr Head was also concerned boaters may inadvertently hurt the friendly dolphin, and that the constant attention Moko received meant he was not resting as much as he needed to.

"Anyone in a boat needs to be careful if Moko comes to play nearby," says Mr Head.

"It is important that if people in boats see Moko, they don't suddenly change direction. They should turn the motor off if he swims too close."

Mr Head said it was important Moko's resting place was respected.

"If people go out and search for him, he will never rest and become exhausted," said Mr Head.
Mr Head said he thought Moko had done everyone a favour.

"I hope he can make people realise how wonderful dolphins are and how horrible it is that the Japanese kill thousands a year," said Mr Head.

It was still unclear whether Moko, a two-year-old bottleneck, was a boy or girl. While Mr Head was convinced Moko is a boy, DOC staff believe it to be female.

Department of Conservation (DOC) programme manager Jamie Quirk said it was important for people to remember Moko was a wild animal.

"We really need to encourage people to let her approach them, and not to ride on her, grab her tail or fins and not give her things to play with," he told the paper.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"