For over forty five years, Dolphin Marine Magic has been dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of marine wildlife. Over this time, the park has been responsible for saving the lives of thousands of rescued animals. We chat with Dolphin Marine Magic Life Sciences Manager Aaron Tolley.
Tell us about the dolphin named “Lonely” that you recently rescued and released?
Local residents first alerted Dolphin Marine Magic (DMM) in late June to a pair of dolphins trapped in a tidal lagoon near Yamba. DMM worked with the NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service and the rescue organisation ORRCA to monitor the dolphins over the week, in the hope they would free themselves. The older dolphin did eventually do this; however, it seems the younger dolphin was too scared to swim through the drain and out of the lagoon. On the last weekend in June, DMM worked with ORRCA and NPWS in a combined operation to rescue the young dolphin from the lagoon, transport the dolphin to nearby “Whiting Beach” at Yamba and to then release the dolphin back into the main channel of the Clarence River, where Lonely’s family would be living.
What is it like when you release an animal like this back into the wild?
It’s really an amazing feeling when you’re able to save an animal like this and give them a second chance at life. When we first released Lonely back into the water, she just floated there for a second without moving. Then I gave her a little push, and she just took off, heading out into the main channel where a pod of dolphins had been seen earlier! As she left the bay, she did this one big bow into the air, as if to say thank you, and all around us on the beach everyone gave a massive cheer to see her go. It’s the moments like that which make you feel really lucky to be a part of something so amazing and special.
Does DMM conduct rescues like this often?
DMM generally rescues, rehabilitates or releases over 100 animals each year, and these rescues can be anything from marine turtles who have washed up on the shore or seabirds have become entangled in fishing line, all the way through to emaciated seals or even dolphins and whales stranded on the beach. The DMM rescue team has over 100 years’ combined experience in animal rescue and rehabilitation and no matter the time of day or night, the team is always on standby to save animals in danger.
So Dolphin Marine Magic has a licence to rescue these animals?
Yes – DMM has a licence from NPWS to rescue, rehabilitate and release all types of marine animals, including the only licence in NSW to rehabilitate cetaceans (dolphins and whales) onsite at DMM if required. DMM also has an exclusive MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with NPWS about DMM’s responsibilities at rescues, and DMM also works with organisations such as ORRCA and Dolphin Research Australia in these rescue situations.
How does all this rescue work get funded? Does DMM receive money from the government for this service?
No, all the rescue work DMM provides to the community is funded entirely by DMM, without any government support. In any given year DMM usually spends over $100,000 on animal rescues.
To improve on the animal rescue and rehabilitation services that DMM provides, DMM recently partnered with the NPWS, NSW TAFE and a number of other organisations to found a charity named CHART (Coffs Harbour Animal Rescue Trust). CHART aims to build a specialised triage hospital in Coffs for native and marine wildlife and will support research into wildlife health and disease.
Is there any other conservation work DMM does around the Coffs Coast other than rescues?
Yes, DMM supports a number of other conservation initiatives around Coffs, including our Seal The Loop programme, which is all about getting bins installed in popular fishing locations to collect fishing line and other waste.
DMM also operates an education programme for primary and secondary school students, which has a very strong focus on conservation and on the small changes the students can make in their lives to benefit the environment. All of these initiatives are part of the DMM philosophy Experience – Discover – Act.