Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


As a result of Moko’s (the bottlenose dolphin) continued presence at West End, Otarawairere and the Whakatane Heads, DOC again repeat their public warning message about safety.

Date:  24 February 2010

As a result of Moko’s (the bottlenose dolphin) continued presence at West End, Otarawairere and the Whakatane Heads, Department of Conservation (DOC) again repeat their public warning message about safety.

It is good to see that generally the public are enjoying interacting with Moko and his presence provides the public with a unique opportunity to see a marine mammal at close proximity.  However, DOC is continually receiving phone calls from the public concerning safety when interacting with Moko.

“DOC advise that if you wish to have an up close and personal experience with Moko that is safe, please consider using one of the marine mammal swimming and viewing permit holders that we have here in Whakatane” said Fiona Hennessey, Field Centre Supervisor.

“We have three permit holders here in the Eastern Bay that not only will ensure Moko’s safety, but that of their swimmers. Moko is renowned for ‘borrowing’ peoples boogie boards, surfboards and noodles and if that is what you or your child is depending on to keep you safe and afloat – there is a problem.

“Diveworks, Whales & Dolphin Watch and White Island Tours all have marine mammal permits which DOC grants under the Marine Mammal Protection Regulations (1992). As part of the requirement to be granted a permit, these operators need to prove they run a safe business.

“We’re so lucky to have Moko visiting us here in Whakatane, we want to ensure that the area is remembered in positive terms around Moko – not the place where someone was seriously injured or someone seriously injured our friendly dolphin.

“Our message is simple, remember that he is a wild animal and his behaviour can’t always be predicted. Think about what if… if he pushes me off my board/kayak, will I be able to get back on? If he jumps on my fibreglass kayak/canoe, could he break it?

“The biggest safety concerns for Moko are around boat propellers and various tethering lines and nets. If you are wanting to take a private vessel out to see him, ensure that within 300 metres you drop the boat speed to low, or no wake. If you regularly set a net and know that Moko is in the area, consider either not setting it while Moko is about, or ensure you are with it at all times. And if you are taking toys to play with him, please don’t take roped or stringed things.

Ms Hennessey finished by saying “Make the most of our special friend while he is around our shores. But please carefully consider your actions. If you look after yourself properly, the chances are you will be looking after Moko too.”

Guidelines for swimming with Moko

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
  • Consider wearing a life jacket, especially for your children and if you are not a strong swimmer
  • Do not try to handle Moko
  • Dolphins have sensitive skin, please remove protruding jewellery such as watches and rings
  • Refrain from ‘scratching’ him with your fingernails
  • Do not take stringed or roped ‘toys’ that could entangle Moko
  • Do not surround the dolphin – always allow him to have an escape route where he can safely move to deep water
  • Do not attempt to ride or be towed by Moko

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


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