Dol­phin calf found dead

CAUSE OF DEATH UN­KNOWN

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - Swan Canning Riverpark - Michele Nu­gent

A DEAD male dol­phin calf was found washed up on South Perth fore­shore last Wed­nes­day, reit­er­at­ing the fragility of the new­born mam­mals.

In a her­culean ef­fort, the dol­phin’s mother, Tupac, kept her baby afloat for more than two days, swimming more than 20km up the Swan River from Fre­man­tle’s Fish­ing Boat Har­bour.

Mur­doch Univer­sity Ce­tacean Re­search Unit PhD can­di­date Del­phine Cha­banne said the mor­tal­ity rate for baby dol­phins aged less than six months was more than 50 per cent. Two calves died in the Swan Can­ning River­park last year.

Ms Cha­banne, who fea­tured in the Gazette’s front­page story last week about the po­ten­tial im­pact of hu­man be­hav­iour on Perth’s river dol­phin pop­u­la­tion, said it was not a good start to the year.

She could not be sure if the calf was still­born or died not long after birth, if its in­juries were caused by boat strike or by Tupac try­ing to keep her calf afloat.

Tupac was seen keep­ing her calf afloat in Fre­man­tle’s Fish­ing Boat Har­bour at 5.30am on Mon­day and again near the Cause­way in the Swan River – a dis­tance of more than 20km – the fol­low­ing day.

“Tupac was seen car­ry­ing her dol­phin on her ros­trum (snout), try­ing to make it swim,” she said.

“She had been try­ing to do that for at least two days which is amaz­ing.”

Sum­mer and au­tumn is calv­ing sea­son for the river­park’s 25 res­i­dent dol­phins.

Tupac, the mother of Gizmo, was first recorded in 2001 and is be­lieved to be more than 20 years old, one of the pop­u­la­tion’s old­est mem­bers.

Ms Cha­banne said she was not sur­prised Tupac was preg­nant as Gizmo, a male, had re­cently be­come more in­de­pen­dent.

He suf­fered a fish­ing line en­tan­gle­ment in April 2012 that almost sev­ered his dor­sal fin.

Wa­ter Po­lice of­fi­cers were able to free him two months later.

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