Meet our Newborn Dolphins for 2015!
From mid-January to mid-April (in 3 months) 2015 we have had 5 new dolphins born in Mandurah’s waterways (that we know of) which is wonderful!
All the mums have been sighted spending a lot of time together along with their calves which happens each birthing season. This has resulted in a large combined pod of 20+ dolphins sighted together on many occasions predominantly in Mandurah city waterways but also the estuary and Dawesville Cut. Aside from the social benefits the dolphins receive from this, they also receive more protection for their newborns.
Surfing on our cruise vessel’s wake is a regular activity for most of the dolphins in Mandurah and so on birth of their newborn’s mothers and their pods were quick to introduce us to their calves and teach them how to surf our wake. They have joined us on most of our cruises over the past 5 months. They all appear to be happy and healthy, growing in confidence and developing their own little personalities.
Mandurah and the Peel region’s waterways are ideal for dolphins due to the abundance of fish which is their choice of food and the shallow, warmer, calm, protected waters which is great for birthing. The large population of dolphins (100+) in the region is a great sign of how healthy our waterways are to be able to sustain them.
Common bottlenose dolphins have many partners over their lifetime. They take part in mating when the water is above 20 degrees and here in Mandurah that is the warmer months from November to May. With a 12 month pregnancy term most calves are born during this period also. Females generally have a calf every 3 years, only one each time. The calves will then stay by their mother’s side and suckle their mother’s milk for up to 18 months. The females generally stay together for their entire life while the males venture off after about 6 years of age from their birth pods and live alone or join other pods for a short period of time.
Mothers are very protective of their newborns and so they stay close to their calf at all times, keeping them in the calf position and attentively direct its movements. Immediately after birth the mother will commonly be seen pushing / guiding her newborn to the surface of the water to teach it to surface and breathe so that is doesn’t drown. The calf swims close to its mother and is carried in the mother’s “slip stream,” the hydrodynamic wake that develops as the mother swims. This helps the baby to swim and enables the mother and calf to stay up with the pod. Mothers and their newborns also survive on almost no sleep for the first months of life as a protective measure from predators and as the newborn is still learning the ropes and may risk drowning. Newborn calves will often be seen to mimic their mother’s behavior as she teaches them the dolphin ways of life.
The first few days after birth, the calf’s dorsal fin and tail flukes are pliable and lack firmness, but gradually stiffen. You will notice on the calf’s birth its dorsal fin flopping around like a piece of jelly.
You may wonder how we can tell the age of the calves… Well, not only can we make this judgement based on their size, calves are darker than adults and show several vertical, light-colored lines on their sides, a result of fetal folding from being in their mother’s womb. These lines disappear within six months. So, looking at how prominent these lines are we can also judge how old the calf may be.
Meet our newborns…
‘Benji‘ was the first, born mid-January and is the calf of Lowblow who is identified by a very low dent on her dorsal fin. It was named after a very excited young boy on our cruise on the first sighting. When asked by our hostess what the young boy thought we should name it he said, “Benji because that’s my name”. Newborn dolphin Benji has been one of the most sighted newborns this season, spending the majority of it’s early months with it’s mother in the Mandurah city waterways and joined us for a surf with its pod on many of our cruises.
Born at the start of February was ‘Squirt‘ who was very small and has a bumpy edge to its dorsal fin. It’s mother is identified by streaks on the left side of her dorsal fin.
Mid-February – Cedric was the third newborn this year. It’s mother is identified by its narrow dorsal fin.
At the end of February popular longtime resident dolphin Nikki (Uboat), who is an older female was sighted without her 3 year old calf Giggles by her side as it is now old enough to do so. She was also seen by herself or with a small pod of dolphins a few times following this. A few weeks later (mid-March) Nikki gave birth to a new calf who has been named ‘Surprise‘ as it was a big surprise to our crew that Nikki was even pregnant. Nikki has given birth to at least 5 calves over the years that we know of but it is believed she may have given birth to 8 or more (years prior to our cruises and dolphin rescue group being established). Nikki is easily identifiable as she only has half a dorsal fin, she lost the top half years ago possibly by fishing line gradually cutting through it or by a boat motor. Nikki was quick to bring her newborn to our boat to show it off and teach it how to surf our wake as she has great trust with us cruising with us for many years.
Mid-April – Another longtime resident dolphin, Freezebranded 22 has a newborn which was named ‘JAC‘. It is the smallest of the newborns this season. 22 is identifiable by the freezebranded number 22 on it’s dorsal fin. She was freezebraned in 1997 as part of a pod of 6 dolphins who became stranded and were rescued. Her then calf was freezebraned 21 and had a calf in October 2014 taking our total of newborns for this season to at least 6.
For updates, photos and videos of the newborns and all the dolphin news in Mandurah ‘Like’ us on Facebook. If you have any photos of Mandurah’s dolphins we would love to see them. You can share them on our Facebook page or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.