DOC investigates porpoise death

05:29, Jul 11 2014
RARE OCCURRENCE: DOC rangers Liz Gunning and Shane Reid resort to a text book to try and figure out what type of mammal washed up on Caroline Bay.

It is a rare occurrence for a spectacled porpoise to wash up in New Zealand, according to Department of Conservation’s biodiversity ranger Steve Harraway. However, that's what appears to have happened in Timaru.

"It’s an oceanic animal not seen around here ... there's only been half a dozen reported dead in New Zealand,"Harraway said.

The male mammal was found washed up on Caroline Bay at 9am today by a member of the public.

Harraway said it was dead when DOC staff arrived.

"We don’t know why it died at this stage."

DOC rangers Shane Reid and Liz Gunning spent the morning protecting the scene and documenting information.


Information, a genetic sample and photos were sent to specialists at both Massey University in Auckland and DOC marine experts in Wellington.

"It stumped the experts a bit at first but we’re pretty confident it is a spectacled porpoise," Harraway said.

The mammal, which was just over 2 metres in length, attracted a lot of attention from members of the public, who stopped to ask the rangers about it. Some people naturally wanted to touch it.

"Anything like this that gets washed up – seals, whales, dolphins – carry a lot of diseases, so it’s important for people not to touch them," Gunning said.

The mammal was taken away to DOC's Geraldine workshop and will be sent to Massey.

The spectacled porpoise is believed to live in cool sub-Antarctic and low Antarctic waters.

The species has been seen off Brazil, the Falkland Islands and South Georgia in the Atlantic, off Auckland, Tasmania and south Australia in the South Pacific and Heard Island and Kerguelen in the southern Indian Ocean.

Individuals have very rarely been seen in the open sea.

The Timaru Herald