Appeal to watch but not swim with Sydney’s solitary dolphin

Media release: 6 January 2014

Appeal to watch but not swim with Sydney’s solitary dolphin

The National Parks and Wildlife Service and wildlife carers are appealing to beachgoers not to feed or crowd a solitary dolphin entertaining swimmers at Shelly Beach for the last few days.

The young female bottlenose dolphin was released by NPWS and wildlife carers from Jervis Bay last summer after becoming separated from a pod and trapped in closed waters at Sussex Inlet.

It has been swimming at beaches between Sydney Harbour and Ettalong since late last year.

NPWS Sydney Harbour Area Manager, Michael Treanor, said the simple message was to treat the animal with care and respect.

Mr Treanor said large crowds swing with the animal endangered both swimmers and the dolphin and could prevent it from re-joining a pod in the wild.

“Dolphins are a fantastic species and this animal in particular is amazing to watch – but for its welfare and your own safety you need to watch respectfully and from a distance.”

“Although this dolphin does seem to actively seek out human interaction we are becoming more and more concerned about the number of people swimming with it at once, and of reports of people attempting to ride the animal, poke it and feed it.

“I cannot stress enough that this is a wild animal and if it is threatened it will act on instinct and could unintentionally hurt someone, by:
• Nipping, nudging and pushing swimmers in the water.
• Isolating children from parental protection.
• Approaching boats at the stern and following boats close to the propeller.

“Ultimately, if that happens the animal may need to be taken into captivity, which is not what anyone wants and what we have been working so hard to avoid.”

Mr Treanor said long term separation from wild animals appeared to have altered the dolphin’s behavioural patterns – meaning it could put itself at risk.

“What everyone wants is for the dolphin to re-join a pod and lead a long, healthy life in the wild with a pod of its own.

“No matter how well-meaning people are, humanising it further could mean that it is unable to form lasting bonds with other dolphins, which leaves the animal isolated and more susceptible to predation by sharks.

If you see the dolphin:

• Ideally, swimmers must remain 30 metres from the animal when in the water. Vessels must remain 50 metres.
• If you are in the water and the dolphin approaches you – move away if you can and place your hands behind your back. Do not attempt to touch, grab or poke any part of the dolphin. Just like with a dog or any other animal, this sort of behaviour will only provoke the dolphin. The dolphin may warn people of its potential for aggressive behaviour through by slapping its tail on the surface.

A team of Australian dolphin experts, ORRCA and NPWS are working together to protect this dolphin. You can help by reporting sightings to ORRCA on 9415 3333 or email orca@orrca.org.au. The dolphin can be recognised by the distinctive nick on its dorsal fin.

You will need to note and report:
• The date, time and location that you see the dolphin
• Its behaviour, condition and any human interaction

More advice and information about the dolphin is at: http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/media/OEHMedia13122402.htm

Contact: Jenny Stokes

Page last updated: 06 January 2014