Dolphin Appears To Guide Whales To Sea
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DOLPHIN APPEARS TO GUIDE WHALES TO SEA
By Ray Lilley
March 13, 2008
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - Most days, Moko the bottlenosed dolphin swims
playfully with humans at a New Zealand beach. But this week, it seems, Moko
found his mojo. Witnesses described Wednesday how they saw the dolphin swim
up to two stranded whales and guide them to safety.
Before Moko arrived, rescue workers had been working for more than an hour
to get two pygmy sperm whales, a mother and her calf, back out to sea after
they were stranded Monday off Mahia Beach, said Conservation Department
worker Malcolm Smith.
But Smith said the whales restranded themselves four times on a sandbar
slightly out to sea from the beach, about 300 miles northeast of the
capital, Wellington. It looked likely they would have to be euthanized to
prevent a prolonged death, he said.
"They kept getting disorientated and stranding again," said Smith, who was
among the rescuers. "They obviously couldn't find their way back past (the
sandbar) to the sea."
Then along came Moko, who approached the whales and appeared to lead them as
they swam 200 yards along the beach and through a channel out to the open
"Moko just came flying through the water and pushed in between us and the
whales," Juanita Symes, another rescuer, told The Associated Press. "She got
them to head toward the hill, where the channel is. It was an amazing
Anton van Helden, a marine mammals expert at New Zealand's national museum,
Te Papa Tongarewa, said the reports of Moko's rescue were "fantastic" but
believable because the dolphins have "a great capacity for altruistic
These included evidence of dolphins protecting people lost at sea, and their
playfulness with other animals.
"But it's the first time I've heard of an inter-species refloating
technique. I think that's wonderful," said van Helden, who was not involved
in the rescue but spoke afterward to Smith.
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