|Nicky, the dolphin, who visits daily and is in her 30s
70 people stood along the shore waiting for the dolphins on the morning I went (and that's a small crowd). We weren't allowed in the water, unless directed. We were not to touch the dolphins or make a lot of noise or splashing. There were quite a lot of 'rules' and only a few DEC staff to enforce them. And do you know what? People obeyed. People were lovely. People were in awe of the dolphins. People of all nationalities, all manner of tongues, stood there and admired nature's beauty. And that's what impressed me more than anything else. The dolphins made humans behave (yes, I'm a horrid cynic about people on mass).
So let me share some of the Monkey Mia story.
In the 1960s fishermen started feeding the dolphins when they came in. The dolphins began to expect the fishermen and waited for a feed - easy feeding here!
Dolphins can be identified by body markings or nicks and cuts in their fins. One dolphin, Holeyfin, was identified for over 20 years appearing every day for a feed. In 1995, she was found dead from a stingray barb to the heart (like Steve Irwin), she was 35 years old.
|Nicky and her calf (near side, halfway down body)
Sometime in the late 1990s-early 2000s, DEC (Department Environment and Conservation; or whatever they may be called now as that was changing) changed the management of Monkey Mia, which had been run to suit humans and not dolphins. Research had shown some of the ways Monkey Mia worked was terrible for the dolphins (causing stress, making females lose calves, etc). So now, rather than people all feeding the dolphins heaps of fish, all in the water and making a lot of noise, a DEC staff member walks up and down the line of people standing in the shallows and talks about the dolphins. Nicky follows the DEC staff member until the fish are thawed and then a selection of the crowd are invited to feed 3 fish to whichever dolphins come in for a feed (on our morning there were 3 dolphins to feed - Nicky, Puck and Surprise).
This means the dolphins aren't stressed, they get their feed (but they still need to go hunting to get their quota for the day - which means they teach their young to feed and hunt), they aren't chased by people, people get to see and photograph them up close, and the females go back out to deeper water to feed their calves. Win-win.
|Dolphin and calves
So from 8 am to 12 noon, there are 3 feeding periods for the dolphins. We went early and caught the first sighting and first feeding. I expected I'd want to stay for the whole show, but I didn't. I'd seen the majesty of the dolphins, I'd experienced the best of humanity, and I was happy to head off to the next great adventure.
I'm not sure I'll ever forget my morning at Monkey Mia. If you have the chance of going, it is quite special. And with only the mothers coming in for a feed now, I wonder if the calves will take over their role when the mothers die. It will be interesting to see what happens in the future.