A grieving bottlenose dolphin has been spotted carrying her dead calf in Bay of Islands, New Zealand. Picture: Department of Conservation
A grieving bottlenose dolphin has been spotted carrying her dead calf in Bay of Islands, New Zealand. Picture: Department of Conservation

Grieving dolphin won’t let go

A grieving female bottlenose dolphin has been spotted carrying her dead calf off the coast of New Zealand in the Bay of Islands.

The mother and calf, suspected to be stillborn, were first spotted on January 29. The female is displaying strong maternal bond behaviour as is typical with marine mammals, including carrying the calf on her back and vocalising on the calf, the NZ Herald reports.

 

The Bay of Islands, New Zealand.
The Bay of Islands, New Zealand.

"The mother is grieving and needs space and time to do this. The Bay of Islands is a busy place in summer with a lot of activity in and around the water. This female needs everyone on the water to give her the extra space and respect she needs whilst she copes with her loss. If in doubt avoid all dolphin groups in the Bay of Islands," Dr Catherine Peters, the Department of Conservation's senior ranger, biodiversity, said.

Department of Conservation staff are monitoring the female and calf, want boats on the water to give them space.

 

A grieving bottlenose dolphin has been spotted carrying her dead calf in Bay of Islands, New Zealand. Picture: Department of Conservation
A grieving bottlenose dolphin has been spotted carrying her dead calf in Bay of Islands, New Zealand. Picture: Department of Conservation

 

The rest of the dolphin group has at times separated from the female leaving her vulnerable. She has dropped the calf frequently as she tried to swim, and then circles back to retrieve it, Peters said.

 

Last year an orca carried her calf for 17 days. Picture: Michael Weiss/Center for Whale Research Via AP
Last year an orca carried her calf for 17 days. Picture: Michael Weiss/Center for Whale Research Via AP

The Department of Conservation has been on the water during summer as part of a public awareness campaign centred on the Bay of Islands bottlenose dolphin. Summer is the time when most dolphins give birth. If dolphin mothers are subject to ongoing disturbance they are prevented from doing what is necessary to care for themselves and their calves.

Last year, an endangered orca spent 17 days keeping her dead calf afloat for more than two weeks.

This article originally appeared on the New Zealand Herald and was reproduced with permission.