Introduction

An issue with a woman not being able to get back inshore at Mahia while playing with Moko (bottlenose dolphin) earlier this year, which resulted in the woman having mild hypothermia, has prompted a warning from DOC staff.

Date:  02 October 2009

An issue with a woman not being able to get back inshore at Mahia while playing with Moko (bottlenose dolphin) earlier this year, which resulted in the woman having mild hypothermia, has prompted a warning from the Department of Conservation (DOC) staff. Moko was sighted earlier this week playing with people at the Tolaga Bay wharf and DOC is concerned that a similar incident may occur here. Moko is becoming an attraction for Tolaga Bay with visitors coming from all over the North Island.

DOC Ranger, Jamie Quirk said he is concerned that with Moko located in deeper water the chances of people interacting with Moko at the end of the Tolaga Bay wharf and not being able to get back to the only ladder could become dangerous. Moko is a large, strong, wild animal, not a pet and should be treated with extreme care.

“It is a real privilege to have a wild animal like Moko in our natural environment and we ask people to treat Moko with respect.  The public should be aware that his behaviour in the past has meant people could not access the beach, 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 interacting with Moko, we can do our best to minimise the risks.

The public should take personal responsibility for their own welfare, be mindful that Moko is a wild animal and should not be trying to play with him as it can be dangerous,” Mr Quirk said.

Guidelines for swimming with Moko

Moko, a male bottlenose dolphin, has visited Mahia since 2007 and is now visiting the East Coast. He is a large, strong, wild animal, not a pet. If you get the chance to swim with Moko, for his sake and your own safety, please respect the following guidelines:

  • Ensure that children are well supervised when in the water near Moko
  • Do not try to handle Moko
  • Do not attempt to ride or be towed by Moko
  • Do not surround the dolphin – always allow him to have an escape route where he can safely move to deep water

Why: Dolphins have delicate skin that can be easily damaged when people touch them. They may carry diseases that can be transferred to humans or people with infections may cause dolphins to become sick.

  • Avoid wearing suntan lotion or perfume when swimming with Moko

Why: Chemicals in the water can irritate Moko’s eyes.

  • Do not give toys (balls, buoys etc) to Moko

Why: Playing with toys may encourage Moko to associate all objects (e.g. crayfish floats, fishing gear) with play - he may get entangled in equipment and drown.

  • Do enjoy the opportunity of interacting with a wild animal in his natural environment. If you are approached by Moko, remain calm and let him make contact with you if he wishes to. Do not try to stop him when he chooses to leave – he is a large powerful animal and can cause considerable damage to people who upset or over-excite him.

If you have any concerns for Moko’s welfare please call 0800 DOCHOT (362468)

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