HIGHNITCH didn’t make it.
Tangled up in fishing wire and a trailing plastic bag, the dolphin’s body was discovered on the banks of the Swan River in Como on Tuesday.
Last week the Voice reported that the parks and wildlife service unsuccessfully tried to remove the wire from her dorsal fin (“High drama”, Voice, August 18, 2018)
Department officers are now looking for her calf Splash.
They initially thought it was too young to survive, but have now estimated that Splash is about 18 months old and might have a fighting chance if it can latch on to another adult dolphin.
Parks and wildlife reported Tuesday that “the entanglement was more severe than expected… a plastic bag was entrapped in the fishing line. The dolphin’s skin was also showing signs of an infection that may have impacted the healing of its wounds”.
Highnitch was a long-term resident of the river: The first recorded sighting of her was in 2001, and one of her babies was discovered dead near Point Walter the following year. She was seen trying to support the dead calf and push it along for a few days.
Highnitch had another baby in July 2011, two years after a spate of dolphin deaths when six died within four months.
The state government ran a naming competition for the calf and the winning entry was “Highhope”; but sadly she only survived for two years.
Highhope had been dismembered by a shark but it wasn’t clear if the shark killed her or if it ate her post-mortem.
Infant bottlenose dolphins generally have a high mortality rate: 20 to 30 per cent will die in their first year, but the rate of first-calf deaths is much higher compared to infants born to experienced mums.
Highnitch still has an adult daughter, Daniele, who is regularly seen in the river and was often spotted swimming with her mother.
Highnitch’s body was taken to Murdoch university to determine the exact cause of death.
Parks and wildlife are asking anyone who spots Splash, just over a meter long, to give the calf a wide berth but to report the time, location and direction of travel to Wildcare Helpline on 9474 9055.
by DAVID BELL