Dead New Zealand dolphin probably Moko
08 Jul 2010
Moko the celebrity dolphin who became a world famous tourist attraction on New Zealand’s East Coast and Bay of Plenty, appears to have made his final curtain call.
The Department of Conservation (DOC) says a dead dolphin washed up on Matakana Island in the Western Bay of Plenty, is "probably" Moko - based on sex, size, markings and teeth.
The dolphin appears to have been dead for about two weeks - the same period of time since Moko was last seen.
DNA testing will be required for confirmation but DOC says it is working on the basis that the body is that of Moko - the bottlenose dolphin who has been delighting the public with his antics for the past three years.
DOC Tauranga area manager Andrew Baucke says Moko was a wild animal and his death could have been caused by a number of factors.
Because of the intense public interest, an autopsy would be performed to ascertain cause of death.
"This is a sad loss. The way that Moko interacted with people really inspired public interest and care for dolphins and marine mammals, and their environment in general. I’m sure those who got to see and swim with him will treasure those memories," said Baucke.
Moko first came to notice around Mahia Peninsula, Gisborne in 2007 showing his love of human company by playing with swimmers, cheekily stealing boogie boards and showing off.
In March 2008 he made news around the world when he apparently saved the lives of stranded pygmy sperm whales that had got into trouble on Mahia Beach.
Moko led the whales to safety through a narrow channel into the sea, then returned to the beach to play.
Moko was back in the news for over-friendly antics in 2009, when he kept a lone swimmer out for too long and she had to be rescued. While Moko wanted to keep playing, the woman became too tired to make it back to shore and clung to a buoy until she was rescued.
On to Whakatane
Early in January this year, Moko followed a fishing trawler around the east coast and settled in Whakatane where he became a familiar sight around local bays and popular beaches and regularly played in the river.
Tourists came from all over the world to see Moko and he became the subject of a documentary in Japan.
The Whakatane tourist office said Moko had boosted local tourism significantly and they often fielded up to 100 calls a day, from people requesting information on the dolphin’s whereabouts.
Moko even had his own website, Facebook and Twitter pages. He also had a personal protection team with a NZ$5000 ‘Moko Mobile’ - an inflatable rigid boat dedicated to looking after the dolphin as well as the crowds of people who took to the water to play with him.
As Moko grew larger and his play became rougher, swimmers were warned to keep their distance.
Identifying the body
DOC said the body of the dolphin had been secured and Marine biologist Amy Taylor, who has been making a film about Moko, was due to depart on a boat to help identify the dolphin.
It was unclear how long it would take to confirm the cause of death.
Moko plays for cameras
New Zealand dolphin tales
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