January 20, 2009

Dolphin’s true gender revealed

Residents of New Zealand's Mahia Peninsula said the government has mistakenly identified a dolphin that frequently visits the coast as a female.

Locals said Moko, a dolphin that has long been visiting the Mahia coast, is consistently referred to as a female by the New Zealand Department of Conservation, but residents have known for months that the marine mammal is a male, The Dominion Post reported Tuesday.

I noticed in the early stages that, when the dolphin was away from the crowds and a male and female couple were playing with him in deeper water, he would always try hard to prevent the female from returning to the boat; in fact he can become very amorous with females, resident Bill Shortt said. He said his suspicions about the dolphin's gender were confirmed with a glance at the animal's belly.

Wade Doak, a diver and underwater photographer, said locals and dolphin enthusiasts have taken pictures confirming Moko's sex as male.

Department of Conservation spokesman Jamie Quirk said officials labeled Moko a female due to anecdotal evidence. He said no thorough investigation was ever performed and the department's Web site would be altered to reflect the discovery if officials obtain evidence.