Rare footage of dolphin birth in the wild is an Australian first
In what dolphin experts say is an Australian first and possibly only the second episode in the world, a baby dolphin birth in the wild has been caught on camera in Mandurah, Western Australia.
This rare event, which took place on April 11, 2018, was spotted by Mandurah Cruises’ staff, giving crew members and 30 lucky guests a rare and unexpected experience.
Nearby volunteers from the Mandurah Dolphin Rescue Group then attended the scene and were able to capture exclusive vision and photos of the 1.5-hour labour, the birth, the newborn’s first breath and post-birth interaction between the mother and her calf. Read our Dolphin Blog for full birthing timeline.
To sight a dolphin giving birth (in the wild) is extremely rare, with only a handful of occasions ever documented around the world.
Martin Van Aswegen from Murdoch University, part of a team working on the Mandurah Dolphin Research Project, says of the event:
“In the wild, it is extremely rare to witness a free-ranging dolphin give birth, as the mothers will typically avoid humans and distance themselves, given the sensitive nature of the event and the vulnerability of the mother and calf.”
“It is quite incredible that we know the precise time of birth of a wild dolphin – this just doesn’t happen when dealing with free-ranging dolphins.”
The mother ‘Squarecut’ is a well-known Mandurah dolphin. She is regularly seen surfing alongside boats, especially across the Peel Inlet and into the Serpentine and Murray Rivers where she spends most of her time.
The familiarity of the Mandurah Cruises’ tour boat meant Squarecut was comfortable enough to be in labour around it. Her calf has been named ‘Pom-Pom’, as chosen by crew on board.
This rare event has made world news – watch some of stories coverage here.
This latest birth is part of a local ‘dolphin baby boom’ happening in Mandurah. Incredibly, over the past three months, the region has welcomed 11 newborn dolphins, including 6 Mandurah Estuary calves, 1 Dawesville Cut calf and 4 Mandurah coastal calves.
A newborn dolphin generally stays by its mother’s side for up to three years, suckling her milk for the first 18 months. This provides a unique opportunity for visitors to Mandurah, and locals, to view baby dolphins learning and foraging in their natural environment.
Current dolphin activity is further heightened due to the mating season, which has attracted a greater number of active males to the area. Together with the start of the salmon run, this produces scenes of spectacular surfing, high flying and unusual foraging methods. See Dolphin Blog for details.
There are estimated to be some 80 resident dolphins in the Mandurah Estuary system and approximately 40 that inhabit the adjacent ocean waters.
Many dedicated groups and individuals in the Mandurah community are committed to unobtrusively observing the dolphins, to learn more about how to best manage and protect the local dolphin population.
Mandurah Cruises and the Mandurah Dolphin Rescue Group follow strict rules when observing the dolphins.
“It is important if you see the calves or any dolphins when out boating, to slow down and give them plenty of space by observing them from a distance,” says Mandurah Cruises’ Captain, Rhys Ball.
It is also illegal to feed wild dolphins and large fines can apply to people who do so.
A phone app called ‘Dolphin Watch’, from the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation & Attractions (DBCA), is available for the public to record dolphin sightings in Mandurah’s waterways.