16 June 2010
New Zealand's friendly dolphin is on the move again. After a six month stint in Whakatane, Moko was spotted in Tauranga on the 4 June but hasn't been seen since.
"There's no need to panic," says Kimberly Muncaster, Project Jonah CEO. "In the short time that we've known Moko he's disappeared for weeks at a time only to reappear again."
Moko first appeared in Mahia in March 2007. He befriended local divers, swimmers and boaties and was named after the nearby Mokotahi headland. After thrilling locals for more than two years he moved to Gisborne and then to Whakatane in January 2010.
Solo dolphins are rare phenomena; there are only 90 or so known cases worldwide. Why they choose to shun their dolphin friends and seek out human company is a mystery, but it has been known for some dolphins to rejoin pods again.
'Maui' a female bottlenose spent two years entertaining locals in Kaikoura in 1992 before travelling north to Picton where her encounters with people became less intense. When she returned to Kaikoura she spent increasing amounts of time with other dolphins and in 1996 gave birth to a calf.
"What Moko does next is anyone's guess," says Kimberly. "He's a wild dolphin and clearly knows his own mind. As he gets older and becomes more sexually mature there's a good chance he'll seek out the company of other dolphins. The time we've spent with him is incredibly special, but we need to make sure our interactions with him are as unobtrusive as possible so he can re-integrate easily with a dolphin pod again if he so chooses."
Moko followed the fishing boat Eskdale to Tauranga, the same boat he followed from Gisborne to Whakatane earlier in the year. Whilst Moko seems to have struck up a friendly connection with the Eskdale and it’s crew, it's vital to remember that boats should take extra special care around Moko, as solo dolphins are particularly prone to propeller strike – a sad consequence of their friendly and inquisitive behaviour.
Whilst there's much speculation it's uncertain whether Moko has left to rejoin his own kind, or if he is just taking time out from his human friends. If Moko does resurface and you spot him, please call DOC immediately.
For more information about keeping Moko safe click here