Since we started our research in 2016, we have seen three dolphins lose their mothers.
Over a year ago, I introduced you to one of the orphans, Goose. He lost his mother in July 2016 and is now over three years old. Although Goose suffered an entanglement, which luckily cleared without amputating part of his tail, he is doing well and. after having observed him on his own or with his late mother’s usual associates, he has now appeared to build social bonds with other juvenile dolphins.
The second orphan, Matata, lost his mother in November 2016. Matata would have been close to two years old when he was orphaned. Like Goose, he is also doing well today and is frequently observed with his late mother’s usual associates.
The third orphaned calf, Nugget, is the most compelling case of the three. Nugget was born in March 2010 to an estuary resident female called Gnawra. The pair was last seen together in October 2016.
In late 2016, the Mandurah Volunteer Dolphin Rescue Group got reports of a lone calf in the Harvey estuary.
In April 2017 a lone calf was observed in the Peel inlet and was identified as Nugget from markings on his body. He was emaciated as indicated by a characteristic ‘peanut head’ and his ribs showing. We always observed Nugget on his own or sometimes near other dolphins, but he was never considered to be part of the group by our definition.
Only in October 2017, perhaps a year after being orphaned, we encountered Nugget in a group of mothers, their calves and some juveniles.
Since then we have consistently observed Nugget with juveniles in the Harvey estuary. He is smaller than his peers and younger than his current associates, but he seems to have found his place in the Peel-Harvey dolphin community.