Education is key to protecting Moko the dolphin. That’s the message as Project Jonah launches its first Moko Academy in Whakatane today to highlight the needs of New Zealand’s latest solitary dolphin.
The workshops are part of an outreach education programme aimed at ‘Keeping Moko Safe’. Exploring the fascinating lives of dolphins and whales, the 2 hour workshops will give kids a wider understanding of these animals as well as some practical tips on what they can do to help.
"Kids need to remember that dolphins are wild animals, Moko's friendly behaviour means this is sometimes easy to forget. We want to give kids a better understanding, so they can help protect Moko and at the same time keep themselves safe,” says Project Jonah's Barbara Todd.
The workshops build on a wider schools campaign that was launched by Project Jonah in March. Visiting 14 schools in Whakatane and reaching more than 3,000 kids, the aim of the programme is to promote responsible behaviour around Moko and encourage people to do the right thing.
“The response has been amazing,” says Barbara. “The students are so enthusiastic, they're really keen to explore the wider world of dolphins and whales. We might have a few marine biologists in the making!"
A local message was also delivered by Kirsty Carrington, Whakatane's official Moko Minder, who accompanied Barbara in schools. "It's up to all of us to do our bit and keep this special dolphin safe," says Kirsty. "Everyone can be a Moko Minder in their own way."
Arriving in Whakatane in January this year, Moko is one of only 14 known cases of solitary dolphins on our shores. His playful antics have captured the hearts of locals as he continues to seek out the company of humans, but Project Jonah urges people to put Moko first.
“We understand that people want to get close to Moko,” says Project Jonah CEO Kimberly Muncaster. “Whilst he seeks out human attention people need to remember to put his welfare first. That means giving him space when he needs it and being gentle in any interaction that we do have with him."
Project Jonah believes that a “hands-off” approach where possible is in Moko's best interests and giving him time and space to pursue his normal feeding and resting habits will protect him in the long run.
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