A neonate Long-beaked common dolphin found at Nahoon Beach

Daily Dispatch Newspaper

Dolphin calf body on Nahoon

By ARETHA LINDEN on February 6, 2016 in News · 0 Comments

A male dolphin calf washed up dead at Nahoon Beach yesterday morning and is the first new-born stranding recorded by the East London Museum in decades.

East London Museum principal scientist Kevin Cole said judging by the length of the long-beaked common dolphin (Delpinus capensis) which was 101cm, the calf was only a few days old.

dolphin neonate

ANSWERS: Museum natural scientist Kevin Cole, centre, with conservation rangers Mkululi Mbusi, left, and Siviwe Kweza assessing the week-old long-beaked common dolphin that washed up at Nahoon beach yesterday morning Picture: ALAN EASON

“For the past two decades we have not had any record of a stranding of new-born species on East London beaches,” said Cole.

When the Saturday Dispatch arrived at the beach at around 8.30am yesterday, Cole and two beach conservation rangers were busy assessing the injuries that may have led to the mammal’s death.

“Chatting to surfers and a lifesaver this morning they reported a lot off common dolphin activity close inshore on Thursday afternoon,” said Cole, adding the injuries indicated it was quite possible the young dolphin may have been accidently injured by another, bigger one.

Cole said the animal would be frozen at the museum and may be cast before a necropsy is undertaken.

Research has revealed that births of this species occur throughout the year but peak during February and March.

The calf will suckle until it is at least 1.75m long.

A population estimate of common dolphins on the south-east coast of South Africa taken some years back indicated there were between 15000 and 20000 of them.

Full grown male adults can reach a length of 2.5m.

They feed mainly on fish and squid and their biggest enemies are man, sharks and, rarely, killer whales.

Last month a rare pygmy killer whale washed up on a beach near East London.

Cole said the whale, which was pregnant, was noted in distress by holidaymakers at Birha seaside resort. It was presumed the mother was ill.

“Attempts to guide the whale back into the ocean seemed successful. However, the animal beached and died approximately 3.5km east of the Birha river mouth,” Cole told the Dispatch at the time.

He said the species was not well researched but that Bayworld in Port Elizabeth had records.

It was later discovered that the female was carrying a small foetus measuring 28cm.

The foetus, which was dead, was secured for preservation at Bayworld.

Pygmy killer whales occurred mostly in tropical and subtropical seas of all major oceans – usually in deep, warm waters and rarely near land (except around oceanic islands).

They feed on squid and small fish and have been known to attack dolphins. — arethal@dispatch.co.za

About East London Museum Science

Conservation Biologist East London Museum South Africa
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