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DOC investigates dolphin deaths

Four Hector’s dolphins have been found dead on South Island beaches in the last two weeks of November, the Department of Conservation (DOC) announced today.

DOC Aquatic Director, Elizabeth Heeg said it was too early to say what caused the deaths of the dolphins, but said DOC was grateful for the actions of the public in reporting them.

The four dead beachcast Hector’s dolphins were found in the second half of November, with three of them found over the past week, she said.

A member of the public found the body of a Hector’s dolphin calf on Saturday 27 November, at Marfells Beach in South Marlborough, and reported it to DOC the next day.

On Sunday 28 November, an adult Hector’s was found decomposing on a beach just north of Hokitika.

The third Hector’s dolphin discovery was made on 30 November at Ōkārito on the West Coast. This dolphin, also a calf, was quite fresh, indicating it had likely been found and reported not too long after it died, Ms Heeg said.

Earlier in the month (16 November) a calf was discovered dead near the town of Hector, on the West Coast.

Ms Heeg says three of the dead dolphins were being sent to Massey University, Palmerston North, for necropsy in an effort find out how they died.

“From the necropsies done by the Massey team, we can glean really valuable information about these species and the threats they face,” she said.

“When people are quick to alert us to discoveries of dead dolphins, however sad, it increases the volume and value of the information we can obtain.

“The people who let us know about these dolphins did exactly the right thing and we’re very grateful for that.

“Along with reporting live strandings, the prompt reporting of a dead Hector’s dolphin is what we’re after from our coastal communities.”

Due to the level of decomposition of two of the dolphins, they have been frozen and will be examined later in the month, Ms Heeg said.

“The third was fresh enough to send chilled and is likely to be examined sooner.”

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