Date: 08 January 2009
The potential for ‘dolphin-watching rage’ to occur in the crowds trying to see Moko, the marine mammal that has been a star attraction at Mahia, has prompted a warning from Department of Conservation (DOC) staff.
DOC Programme Manager, Jamie Quirk has been observing the people who are interacting with Moko. Of particular concern was the sight of people steering sea kayaks and surf skis through the crowds around Moko so they could get close to the dolphin.
“This summer has already seen the tragic consequence of a boat colliding with a person in the water on Lake Taupo. In that case, the craft was a motor boat more likely to cause harm. However at Mahia, there are people of all ages and various levels of swimming skill, jostling for position around a strong, fast, 150 kilogram marine mammal that could cause serious damage with a flick of her tail. Add in some idiots barging through that lot in their watercraft and you have a recipe for causing serious injury to people and to Moko,” said Mr Quirk.
Mr Quirk said that the Marine Mammals Protection Act requires DOC staff to attempt to ensure the welfare of marine mammals.
“When you’re dealing with wild animals in their natural environment, it is not possible to keep them completely out of harm’s way, but with co-operation from the people who are flocking to see Moko, we can do our best to minimise the risks.
“From what I have seen, the majority of people are enjoying seeing and interacting with Moko and are adhering to the guidelines we have set out on nearby signs and in fact sheets. However, people are still giving her cray floats to play with. While this may appear entertaining, it could result in Moko getting into trouble and possibly drowning at a later date if she plays with the floats on a set net,” Mr Quirk said.
With ability to come and go as she pleases, Moko continues to demonstrate an affinity for people with every visit to Mahia beaches. The fact remains that she is a wild animal, not a pet.
“Having the opportunity to closely observe a wild animal in its natural environment is a real privilege and we just ask people to continue to treat Moko with care. If this was a 2.2 metre long shark, I know I certainly wouldn’t be in the water with it. Moko has the strength, speed and unpredictability of a large shark and for her sake and the safety of the people around her, should be treated with respect,” Mr Quirk said.