Sunday, July 18, 2010

Moko's Memorial

Moko's Memorial was held yesterday at the Mataatua Reserve in Whakatane, the last town that he made his home before his premature death. Today Moko will be buried on Matakana Island where he was found just over a week ago.

Surrounded by the boogie boards and noodles that he loved

Click on the link to hear Moko's farewell - Farewell Moko

Moko arrives escorted by friends and "Moko Minders"

The crowd awaits Moko's arrival
Moko touched the hearts of many people, from the very young to the young at heart and from all walks of life they came to pay their respects. Some spoke about their experiences with Moko, others were happy to just be there to honour their special memories of Moko.

Pouroto Ngaropo from Ngati Awa

Kirsty welcomes everyone to Moko's Memorial

Moko the fun loving dolphin- as we remember him

The Guy in the Jockeys- "Watene" 
While all of the stories were moving one stood out. "Watene" told us he was in jail when he heard about Moko. He told the "fellas" that when he was released and returned to Whakatane, his home town, he was going to swim with "that dolphin" and he did.

Watene made the crowd laugh with his story of Moko-

The Guy in the Jockeys-

Preschoolers leave Moko their tributes

Little Orchard Preschool sing for Moko-

Kirsty reads Little Orchard's words-

More photos from the day-

Signing Moko's casket
Finals farewells and prayers for Moko-

Whakaaria Mai- How Great Thou Art-

Hallelujah Moko sung by Pastor Andre-

Moko was then taken by boat for his final ride down the Whakatane River past all his favourite spots and around to Otarawairere Bay and his favourite buoy-

Today Moko and his minders crossed the Tauranga harbour to Matakana Island where he will be laid to rest on one of the most beautiful beaches in New Zealand.

As the barge made it's way across the water, the sun broke through the clouds and I said a final silent farewell to Moko; Rest In Peace beautiful boy, My Mate Moko.

Tangaroa has called you home, resting forever in the shadow of scared Mauao-

And one final note for those in the future that happen across my blog and wonder how Moko met his maker- we are informed that he didn't have any signs of blunt force trauma so we can discount him being hit by a boat and he also didn't drown so he wasn't caught in a net. Small consolations.

Direct from the pathology report sent to media -
"The liver contained a large amount of gold/orange pigment, which was negative on iron stains and was interpreted as bile. This pigment was present both within cells and between cells, presumably in small bile ductules. No further evaluation of the nature of any underlying liver disease was possible. This change within the liver is likely to be due to obstructed excretion of bile, which can occur in a number of liver diseases. Unfortunately, due to the extent of post mortem degeneration of the tissues, it is not possible to determine what the liver disease was, or how severe it was. It is possible though that this may have contributed to the death of the dolphin."

"There was, however, no evidence of infection of the remaining teeth or of the bone surrounding the damaged teeth, so it is unlikely that this was associated with his death."
You can read the full Pathology Report here.

My tribute to an amazing dolphin who brought so much joy to so many, Moko we will miss you-

Thanks for the Memories#1 -

Thanks for the Memories#2 -

Footnote-  I have included all the actual links in the posts as I am going have my blog on Moko printed in book form, this way anyone reading the book will be able to copy the links to find the movies.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Final Chapter

A Tribute to Moko

Our beautiful dolphin Moko was found dead today and I am devastated.

Moko's body was found this morning on the ocean side of Matakana Island, very near the Tauranga harbour entrance. It would seem that he has been dead for 2-3 weeks and with no obvious injuries everyone is wondering how (and why). Hopefully the necropsy will shed some light, maybe he ingested some rubbish or succumbed to a human virus, perhaps he was hit by a boat or caught in a fishing net. Although we may never know the cause, due to the bad state of his body. I just hope he didn't suffer.

Moko brought so much joy and pleasure to so many people, not only here in New Zealand, but right around the world. A very special dolphin, he will live on in the hearts of many who will hold dear their wonderful memories of Moko. He will also live on in the thousands of photos and videos and will be remembered and talked about for generations to come. Moko was, and will always be, a national treasure, he has become a part of New Zealand history and I feel very privileged to be able to say that I knew him. Thank you Moko for the precious memories.

Rest easy Moko, you were one very special dolphin and may there be a stockpile of boogie boards waiting for you in heaven. Gone from the sea but not from our hearts.

A beautiful poem that describes the joy of swimming with a friendly dolphin;
The Dolphin
by Kate Carr

Have you swum with a friendly dolphin
When the day dawns clear and bright,
And seen his welcoming leap of joy,
As you leave the harbour and pass the buoy?
That's pure delight.
Have you swum with a friendly dolphin,
Dozing under the noonday sun,
and stroked his belly so smooth and strong,
Or felt yourself being towed along
In elfin fun?
Have you swum with a friendly dolphin
In the sunset's fiery glow,
When every wavelet is tinged with gold,
And his silhouette, so huge and bold,
Is a graceful bow?
Have you swum with a friendly dolphin
As the silvery moon rides high,
And ocean and earth are bathed in white,
And the dolphin's aglow with a phosphorous light,
As he glides by?
Have you swum with a friendly dolphin
In the South Sea's rolling swell?
Or a choppy squall, as a cloud passed by,
And a leaden greyness darkened the sky,
And raindrops fell?
Have you swum with a friendly dolphin
And a boatload of friends of a kind?
The harmony linking you all, and him,
As you tumble out of the boat for a swim -
It blows your mind.
Have you swum with a friendly dolphin
And known your panic allayed?
Be it ladders or snorkels - whatever your fear -
Perhaps the oceans depth; once the dolphin's near
You're not afraid.
Yes, I've swum with a friendly dolphin
In the moonlight, the sun and the rain;
And the varying moods of the ocean swell
And my life will never - I know full well -
Be the same again.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Moko is Missing

"...To the dolphin alone, beyond all other, nature has granted what the best philosophers seek: friendship for no advantage"

I am so glad I made the effort to see Moko in Pilot Bay Thursday evening, the day he arrived in Tauranga Harbour. Because, as I predicted, it was my only chance. Moko has disappeared without trace.
The sun sets on Moko at the Mount
I had heard anecdotal evidence that he was in the harbour on Friday and Saturday and was seen with surfers near one of the ocean beaches at one stage but none of the regular Moko swimmers had managed to locate him. And he certainly didn’t attract attention to himself with reports of only a couple of kayakers playing with him near the Sanford wharf. This was actually good news as Saturday was the first day of a long holiday weekend and the worry was a huge crowd gathering to play with and touch Moko, most never having been in the presence of a friendly dolphin and not knowing the protocol of interacting with him.

Unfortunately I was unable to search in any great depth for him on either of these days due to prior engagements; child minding & visiting family. I was able to do a quick drive around some of the likely places that he might be at on both days though but I had no luck either. I also walked the Mount’s base track on Saturday morning keeping a watchful eye out for any unusual activity on the water and in Pilot Bay. And from home I scanned the harbour with the telescope regularly just in case I caught sight of a lone leaping dolphin looking for company.

Tauranga Harbour
Tauranga harbour is huge with many large estuaries, streams and rivers entering it and a number of small islands. There are only two entrances, one at either end of Matakana Island which forms a 20km long natural barrier against the open ocean. There are many places that Moko could have swum to although I don't expect he would have gone any higher than Omokoroa, a harbour side settlement located on a small peninsula that juts into the harbour about half way up. Just beyond Omokoroa the tidal mudflats reach right acorss the harbour with only a small shallow channel that allows access at high tide to the upper reaches.

Matakana Island & the Pacific Ocean
Motuhoa Island to the left & Omokoroa to the right

Tauranga City
Sulphur Point Marina & Mt Maunganui

Harbour Bridge Marina

Main Beach, Pilot Bay & the harbour stretching away in the background

A storm blew up overnight on Saturday with Sunday dawning grey & misty with torrential rain and gale force winds, a totally miserable day on land and out on the water. I went for a drive and searched methodically, right around the inner harbour and along the ocean beaches. I stopped and checked all the boat ramps, up and down both sides of the two major estuaries, the commercial fishing wharves at Sulphur Point and Dive Cres, along The Strand and under the Matapihi rail bridge, the Sulphur Point and Harbour Bridge marinas along with all the moored boats and unoccupied buoys throughout the harbour.

Sulphur Point boat ramp & marina
The Strand, Tauranga

Sulphur Point
Sanfords fishing fleet
Even the oystercatchers were hove-too into the wind

Then I moved on over to The Mount checking Salisbury Wharf and Pilot Bay, the Main Beach, Tay Street and Omanu beaches and a few extra beach spots in between and then retracing the same route back home just in case Moko had decided to make an appearance after I’d left. Moko certainly wouldn’t have been anywhere along the ocean beach as it was very rough with a large swell and messy waves.

A deserted Pilot Bay
Main Beach, Mt Maunganui
It was actually good that it was a dismal day out as I would have seen less than a dozen people during my search. There was absolutely no one about, near or on the water. It would have made it easy to spot Moko if someone had managed to locate him and had been playing with him. You would certainly have had to have a good reason to be paddling, boating or swimming on a day like this and Moko would have been a very good reason indeed.

Sadly I had no luck and after two hours of searching I headed home. There was no luck either for a few other dedicated Moko friends who had travelled up from Whakatane to search. Eskdale, the fishing trawler that had caused all the problems was still tied up at the wharf although the rumour mill was working overtime and had it leaving at various times over the next few days. In fact it was still tied up there along with a few other trawlers that arrived over the weekend after a very rough time at sea.

Dive Cres Commercial Wharf
There were various reports of Moko making his way back to Whakatane and of being spotted at Thornton, a beach settlement down the coast but none of them could be called trustworthy, there has been so much inaccurate information out there and from what should be reliable sources; the media and DOC (Dept of Conservation). Just more dashed hopes for all the people waiting to hear that Moko had been located safe and sound.

And while we all have a great affection for Moko I think I can safely say that everyone’s long term hope is that Moko has returned to the ocean in search of a pod and a female dolphin to call his own. Until we hear otherwise I guess we can only dream that this has indeed happened.

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday I followed the same routine, a drive around all the possible spots, re-checking that the Eskdale was still in port and scanning the harbour and Pilot Bay at least a dozen times during the day through the telescope…..just in case. The last two days the harbour has been a mill pond and it’s been easy for me to follow boats and yachts along the channels hoping to catch sight of a lone leaping dolphin. I even followed the pilot boat in through the entrance a couple of times along with the ships shortly afterwards and then the tugs who came to meet them. Still no luck.

Today (Friday) my only check was the Eskdale (still in port) while I was out on another errand although I still couldn’t help checking the harbour every time I passed the telescope. And then this evening, another drive by to check that the Eskdale was still there(she was) after a call from some Moko friends who had heard (once again) that she had left port and was heading back to Whakatane.

The Eskdale
I feel for sure that Moko has headed out to the open ocean, perhaps on Saturday night before the storm hit. He would surely have made his presence known to anybody out on the water this past week. He has a habit of annoying the hell out of paddlers, surfers, and boaties; head butting their hulls and stealing their paddles and boards and there has been no word of this.

Moko with a stolen board at Ohope
I hope and pray that he is safe and happy wherever he has gone. He may well pop up again in the not too distant future and not too far away. When he was in Mahia he went missing for days on end (and sometimes a few weeks) before showing up again. But there he didn’t have the intense and constant interaction with people that he’s been having in Whakatane. He must surely be missing his adoring playmates and minders and I know that they are all missing him very much.

Moko you are one very special dolphin, my mate. You have had such a huge and profound impact on many lives, we all will miss you dearly but we wish you well. It’s been a wonderful privilege to meet you and I am so glad I managed to see you when you made your brief visit to my town. Was it good-bye? I hope not.

"There is something about dolphins.
It is difficult to put into words..."
Mark Carwardine

Friday, June 4, 2010

Moko Comes to the Big Smoke!

Well it was always on the cards and while I've joked often enough that Moko might make it up the coast and into the Tauranga harbour, I secretly hoped he wouldn't make Mt Maunganui & Tauranga his home. Whakatane has taken such good care of Moko, they were thrown in the deep end with regards to Moko's well being and how to act and react around him. Whakatane has so many passionate people looking out for Moko and through many trials and tribulations they have managed to keep him safe and well and most importantly educate the public on the ways of a cetacean who loves human contact. Let’s hope Tauranga & the Mount people can take a leaf out of our neighbour's book.

Moko arrived in Tauranga harbour yesterday morning (June 3rd) after following the Eskdale, a fishing trawler that had been sheltering at Whale Island off the coast from Whakatane. This was also where Moko had decamped to after torrential rain and flooding in Whakatane over the weekend. The Whakatane River, where Moko spent quite a bit of his time, was in full flood with a lot of logs and debris, and thick with silt, it was no place for an ocean loving dolphin.

The Eskdale
There was also a pod of orca (a dolphin's arch enemy) that had been in the vicinity for a few days. In fact, sadly one of the orca, a teenage male, died and washed ashore on Piripai Spit just a few hundred metres from the Whakatane River entrance.

By sheer coincidence, the Eskdale was the trawler that Moko had followed from Gisborne, around the East Cape to Whakatane back in January. The skipper of the Eskdale believes Moko likes his loud AC/DC music but those that know Moko believe it's the stabilizer bar and large orange buoys that float along beside the trawler. Moko spent a lot of his down time in Whakatane snuggled up with the Evelyn J, a boat that dredges the Whakatane Bar, it has stabilizer bars too. Moko loves to rub his body on the bars and swim alongside them and the chains that hang in the water when the boat's motoring along.

The Eskdale is due to leave Tauranga port this morning on a five day fishing trip & everyone is wondering  if  Moko will follow. The skipper had turned down a $3000 bribe by a tourist operator in Gisborne to get Moko to return to Gisborne. A joke maybe, but I think he was very serious, Moko generates a lot of visitors from out of town and overseas wherever he goes.

Pilot Bay, Mt Maunganui. Mt Maunganui (Mauao) is an extinct volcano cone.

I heard around midday that Moko had arrived in town but had to wait until I got home later in the afternoon before I could check out his location. After a short time scanning the harbour with the telescope from our deck I zeroed in on a growing crowd in Pilot Bay. Usually this wouldn't indicate anything other than a lot of families and people walking and sunning themselves in the late afternoon sunshine on one of the most popular beaches in New Zealand. But it's June and it's winter and the sun was setting. There were quite a number of people in the water along with even more scattered along the shoreline. And they all seemed to walking one way in unison and then back the other and then back again. More slinky black shapes joined the group, wetsuits obviously. A sure indication that Moko was in their midst.

I grabbed my camera and jacket, shouted out departing goodbyes (I should have been bathing and feeding our granddaughter her dinner before she returned home, instead her father finished the job for me. I know Pete understands my passion for Moko) and headed to the Mount in 5pm rush hour traffic. My Mate Moko couldn't come to town, my town and have me miss him. The sun was sinking fast but I knew I had to see him tonight just in case it was a brief visit and he'd be gone in the morning. Eight minutes later and a silent thankyou to the powers that be for the new flyover and second harbour bridge and I was pulling into a parking spot in Pilot Bay.

Sure enough in knee deep water I caught sight of that familiar fin. Moko was playing to his audience and they were thoroughly enjoying it. Squeals and shouts, laughter and chatter filled the air. Up and down he swam, in and out. I could see he had a bottle balanced on his nose at one stage, playing his old games with his new fans. Fetch and chase. I also saw a couple of tail slaps, Moko letting someone know he doesn't appreciate some things like being cuddled or having his fin held onto. Oh they have a lot to learn. I smiled when a guy on a wave ski paddled into the middle, all bravo and "look at me, I’m cool", Moko soon tipped him off his board. Again. And again. "You won't win mate" I felt like shouting to him. The paddler finally lifted his board clear of Moko and made his way back to shore.

Oops, over you go!

I spotted the familiar profile of a person outlined in the gloom of dusk, she was standing at the back of the group in the water, carefully watching, waiting and offering advice when needed. I breathed a sigh of relief, a Moko minder from Whakatane. Now that is dedication. Thankfully she will be able to impart some of her immense knowledge of Moko to new minders if Moko decides to stay.

The sun sets behind the Kaimais

Tauranga harbour is not actually a great place for a dolphin to take up residence. Too many fast pleasure boats, a lot of large fishing trawlers coming and going, huge international ships and powerful tug boats, a very narrow shipping lane with a 24/7 working log and container port, large expanses of tidal mudflats not to mention the extremely narrow entrance into the harbour through which all water traffic large, small and with fins must pass.

Tauranga Harbour entrance ~ Pilot Bay to the left around the corner,
Tauranga city straight ahead and Matakana Island on right

A yacht sailing through the Entrance on a very fast outgoing tide
                                           The Mount base track
 Tangaroa, Maori god of the sea stands guard at the Entrance
So in the fading light with the beautiful silhouette of our special Mauao as a backdrop and an extra special treasure in the water below I said a silent goodbye to Moko. I’m so please that Moko paid a visit but I hope Moko decides the Big Smoke isn't for him. And once again I say "stay safe Moko, my mate"