Somehow we knew the day would be different….                                                                          

Bottlenose dolphin Tiki surrounded by a large group of dolphins.
Tiki carrying her deceased calf Angel

All surveys are special.

S122 in December 2012 to Dashwood Bay in the Mission Blue North Coast Hope Spot was unique. Every one of the Citizen Science volunteers felt we were privileged to witness the coming together of 2 large groups of Bottlenose dolphins, participating in apparent mourning,  grieving behaviours for one of their own….tiny little Angel, Tiki’s new calf.

Citizen Science volunteers at work trying to work out what was happening.
Reality hits….

We had not confirmed Tiki, with a distinctive dorsal fin, catalogued in 2006 at North Cape as female. What a tragic way to find out. Observing wildlife can be exciting, joyful and uplifting but also provides moments of great poignancy and grief.

Citizen Science volunteers using photographic identification to identify the dolphins being observed.

Approaching the bay we noticed dolphins acting differently, slowly zigzagging in a tight group in a purposeful manner out to sea. In the front Tiki was carrying something in her mouth, a large fish, small shark, or similar.  On closer inspection via binoculars Skipper Andrew Neighbour realised Tiki was carrying an emaciated body of a young calf. To the distress of all we realised we were observing a “funeral procession” in human terms, with a fellow mammal mother taking her dead child out to sea surrounded by her grieving pod.

Observing very different dolphin behaviours.
Tiki and new calf Gabriel – December 2015

The grief was palpable. Years later it is etched in our minds – extraordinary animal connectedness, empathy, and compassion of common sentience. In December 2015 we were delighted to record Tiki with an active new calf at North Cape. We called him/her Gabriel. We often think of Tiki and her calves and wonder how and where they are, and hope they are thriving.

Skipper Andrew pointing out the large pod of dolphins ahead on arrival at Dashwood Bay.

Back on the water on wonderful KI Marine Adventures next week for S228 – what a special start to the New Year it would be to see Tiki and a healthy calf or juvenile again!

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