Saturday, April 13, 2024

Roped rare dolphin spotted near Piha

The Department of Conservation (DOC) has received a report that a Māui dolphin with a rope around its tail has been spotted at White’s Beach near Piha and is urging the public to be on the lookout and report any sightings.

DOC Disentanglement Team Lead, Catherine Peters says the team are moving fast to find and help disentangle the very rare and endangered dolphin.

“We received the report on Tuesday morning of an entangled dolphin off the west coast of the Auckland region travelling in a pod of three – four individuals, with a rope around its tail. The report received indicated this may be a Māui dolphin.”

“Because of this our teams have quickly mobilised to the area to see what they can find from land, sea and sky. At this stage we haven’t received any further sightings or information.

“Dolphins and whales do get tangled in ropes, fishing gear and other debris on occasion and we have a dedicated whale disentanglement team trained to respond to these situations, but usually this is with orca or humpback whales. It’s unusual for a Māui dolphin to be reported tangled and our team is ready to disentangle it, if we can locate it,” said Ms Peters.

The DOC staff involved in the search for the dolphin include the specialised New Zealand Disentanglement Team with members from the Bay of Islands, Whangārei and Kaikōura, the Māui dolphin survey team from the Waikato, and the Auckland mainland operations team. The New Zealand Defence Force was also assisting with a helicopter in the area trying to locate the dolphin, DOC confirmed in a statement.

Ms Peters says, with the weather forecasted to deteriorate throughout the week, the team is trying to move as swiftly and safely as possible.

“Locating the dolphin will be difficult, so we are asking for support from the public,” she said.

“Please report any sightings to 0800 DOC HOT as soon possible and include GPS and a photo if you can, to help us confirm identity and location. Do not attempt to disentangle the dolphin yourself, this could cause more harm than good.

“If we can’t locate the animal through an active search over the next week, we will continue to monitor any sightings recorded and stay on standby. We will keep working to ensure this animal is safe.”

Māui dolphins are one of the rarest and smallest dolphins in the world and are critically endangered, with only about 48-64 over one year old left.

Only found on the west coast of the North Island in New Zealand they have a distinctive rounded dorsal fin that looks like one of Mickey Mouse’s ears. Their bodies are grey with black and white markings and look identical to Hector’s dolphins.

Human activities have had a major impact on these dolphins and DOC is committed to ensuring the long term-viability of the Māui and Hector’s dolphin populations, the Department said.

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