Mourning Mother Dolphin Has Been Carrying Body of Dead Calf on Her Back for Days

New Zealand's Department of Conservation has asked boaters to give the mother dolphin space while she processes the loss of her calf

Photo: Department of Conservation

Six moths after a grieving orca whale carried the body of her dead calf for weeks and captured the world’s attention, a new creature has been spotted mourning the loss of her baby.

According to The New Zealand Herald, a female bottlenose dolphin is carrying the body of a dead dolphin calf on her back through the waters near New Zealand’s Bay of Islands.

New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DOC) believes the dolphin is the calf’s mother, since the animal is “displaying strong maternal bond behavior as is typical with marine mammals, including carrying the calf on her back and vocalizing on the calf.”

In a statement regarding the mourning dolphin, the DOC says the mother was first spotted carrying the calf’s body on January 29. Days later, the animal is still carrying the calf, believed to be a stillborn, on her back.

“The mother is grieving and needs space and time to do this. The Bay of Islands is a busy place in summer with a lot of activity in and around the water. This female needs everyone on the water to give her the extra space and respect she needs whilst she copes with her loss,’ Dr. Catherine Peters, a senior ranger of biodiversity with the DOC, says in the statement.

Boaters in the Bay of Islands area have been asked to give the mother dolphin space as she processes the loss of the calf. This courtesy should be extended to all dolphin moms, the DOC says, since ongoing disturbances can prevent dolphin moms for giving their babies the best care.

The Department of Conservation is keeping an eye on the mourning mother dolphin because, “the rest of the dolphin group has at times separated from the female leaving her vulnerable. She has dropped the calf frequently as she tried to swim, and then circles back to retrieve it.”

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