On Wednesday 11th April 2018 a wild dolphin birth was observed and captured on camera by Mandurah Cruises & the Mandurah Dolphin Rescue Group. To witness a dolphin giving birth (in the wild) is extremely rare, this being only the second occasion ever documented in the world.
The day started out just like any other day – with our 11am Dolphin Scenic Canal Cruise sighting dolphins swimming into town waters. Dolphins present were Christmas and her calf Spirit, Laika and her newborn and heavily pregnant Squarecut. They appeared to be snagging (resting on the surface of the water).
At 1:50pm, during the 1pm Dolphin & Scenic Canal Cruise the crew noticed Squarecut again appearing to be snagging in the shallows by the new Mandurah bridge but this time by herself for a long period. Concerned that she was injured or unwell they cruised over towards her to get a closer look. She then swam over to the vessel, turned on her side and the crew noticed a small tail poking out of her underside or as captain Rhys Ball said “There is a dolphin hanging out of a dolphin”.
Tour guide on board Mandjar, Rebecca Andrews, witnessed the moment with the boat full of guests and said, “We were all shocked and second guessing ourselves at what we were seeing”.
The Mandurah Dolphin Rescue Group, who were out monitoring the dolphins on the day, were contacted and attended immediately to monitor Squarecut from a distance with long lens equipment. They observed what appeared to be contractions as the dolphin was doing lots of back arching and pushing. She appeared extremely uncomfortable, travelling side to side across the estuary channel. Over the hour and a half of labour, constant changes in behaviour were observed, from travelling fast with bursts of speed and even leaping into the air several times, to slow movement into the shallows and arching of her back. On a few occasions she rolled onto her side and a small tail was clearly visible.
At 3.34pm a new little calf was born (1.5 hours after first being sighted in labour). Robyn Bickell from the Mandurah Dolphin Rescue Group was part of the team that observed the rare moment and said “There was a big splash and the calf eventually surfaced, taking its first breath and then splashing around learning to swim. The tiny little calf’s dorsal fin and tail were like jelly, flopped over lacking firmness. Initially the calf went one direction and mum went the other, as it learnt its sense of direction, swimming all over the place and trying to keep upright. After approximately 5 minutes mum and calf came together with the calf going into baby position. They then made their way across the Peel Inlet and into the Murray River.”
“It was a truly incredible experience, to witness a dolphin give birth and this tiny little calf taking its first breath of life is just amazing, something I will never forget”, Robyn said.
A wild dolphin birth, not only to be observed but also captured on camera, is one of very few in the world. Martin Van Aswegen from Murdoch University, part of a team working on the Mandurah Dolphin Research Project said, “In the wild, it is extremely rare to witness a free-ranging dolphin give birth as the mothers will typically avoid humans and distance themselves given the sensitive nature of the event and the vulnerability of the mother and calf.”
“It’s quite incredible how we know the time of birth of a wild dolphin, this just doesn’t happen when dealing with free-ranging dolphins. How amazing are Mandurah’s dolphins?!”
Squarecut is a well-known dolphin to Mandurah Cruises, always seen surfing with our cruise vessels, especially across the Peel Inlet and into the Serpentine and Murray Rivers where she spends most of her time.
The calf has been named ‘Pom-Pom’, as chosen by crew on board. We now have 11 newborn dolphins in Mandurah with 6 Mandurah Estuary calves, 1 Dawesville Cut calf and 4 Mandurah coastal calves.
If you observe Squarecut and her calf or any dolphins when out in Mandurah’s waterways you can use the Dolphin Watch app to record your sightings.
It is important that if you see the calves or any dolphins when out on boating to slow down and give them plenty of space by observing them from a distance. Please also remember it is also illegal to feed or swim with wild dolphins and large fines apply to people who do so.
If you have any questions please feel free to ask them below and we’ll have our expert dolphin team answer them. To book a dolphin tour with us, click here.