A DOLPHIN that has been isolated in St Georges Basin and more recently Sussex Inlet since September last year has been returned to the open ocean.
A team of marine mammal specialists and community volunteers captured and relocated the dolphin in a swift operation on Thursday afternoon.
Representatives from the NSW Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), SeaWorld, Dolphin Marine Magic, the Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia (ORRCA), Dolphin Research Australia, and the RSPCA, as well as local vet Justin Clark, managed the relocation.
The dolphin that entered St Georges Basin in September last year and was relocated from Sussex Inlet to Bendalong Beach, was soon observed interacting with wild pods, investigating its former range, and feeding.
NPWS Marine Fauna co-ordinator Geoff Ross said the decision to move the dolphin had unanimous support from marine mammal experts.
“We have been monitoring the animal for a number of months and hoped it would return to open waters and join a pod in the wild,” Mr Ross said.
“We were increasingly concerned for public safety, as experience overseas has shown lone dolphins can inflict serious injuries, either through robust play or aggressive behaviour.
“We also held concerns the dolphin would fall victim to a boat strike or entanglement because it frequently approached vessels and had minor scarring from a recent encounter with a propeller.
“Intervention is always a last resort but in this case we took action in the best interest of the animal’s welfare and to give it a chance to reunite with its family group.”
Mr Ross thanked the communities of St Georges Basin and Sussex Inlet for their co-operation and understanding regarding this popular dolphin.
“For many people it was a sad day farewelling this dolphin, but returning her to the wild is best for her welfare,” he said.
“There is little doubt this dolphin, which was separated from her family group at a young age, was seeking human company to satisfy that deep need for a social network.
“It may be some comfort that research shows dolphin pods along the South Coast tend to stay in their home range, so look closely at the next dolphin pod on the beach because she may among them.
“As the populations of marine mammals increase so will strandings, entanglements and isolated animals like this dolphin, and having community support, cooperation and understanding helps us conserve these unique species.
“ORRCA volunteers will continue to monitor this dolphin, however the signs are strong that she has been successfully returned to the wild.”
The public can help track the success of this dolphin relocation by reporting sightings to ORRCA on email@example.com or by using the online form onwww.dolphinresearchaustralia.com.
Please note the date, time and location if you see this dolphin, which has a distinctive triangular nick missing from the upper half of its dorsal fin.