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Dolphin Deaths in Kerikeri Inlet Investigated

A marine mammal expert believes recent high tides are to blame for the stranding and subsequent deaths of three bottlenose dolphins in the Kerikeri inlet.

Auckland-based Phd student Rochelle Constantine was asked by the Department of Conservation to help with an investigation of the deaths that occurred during the early part of this week.

Ms Constantine said the three adults, two males and one female, were all in good physical condition and appear to have died from being stranded on the mud flats in the inner reaches of the Kerikeri inlet.

"Once they can't get back into the water they tend to over heat and get stressed and then die," Ms Constantine said.

"It is not unusual to find dolphins this far up the inlet as food availability changes and they travel closer to shore and into waterways to feed," she said.

Ms Constantine, who has spent the last five years studying the behaviour of marine mammals in the bay and the effect of tourism, said all three animals were familiar to her through her work.

"They appear to have died at the same time and were all found close to each other," she said.

An oyster farmer discovered two of the dolphins in separate incidents on Monday and Wednesday, while a third was discovered by an adjoining landowner later on.

The remains of the animals have been disposed of, although skin samples have been sent to Auckland University for genetic analysis. After consultation with local iwi the skulls have been sent to Te Papa in Wellington for scientific study.


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