Mandurah’s Annual Dolphin Baby Boom

Every year, a heartwarming phenomenon unfolds in Mandurah waters – the birth of new Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin calves. So far this year, 7 calves have been born. We know from work Dr Krista Nicholson (Murdoch University Dolphin Research Project), Estuary Guardians (Mandurah Volunteer Dolphin Rescue Group) and our own company, that once born here, dolphins tend to remain this community ~ so we have multiple family generations of dolphins.

Each year, the number of babies born is directly proportional to the number of breeding females living in these waters. We know that in general, this community is operating at maximum reproductive capacity – that is, those mums that can give birth are giving birth. This is great news!

Lowblow & Lilo – © Photo by Natalie Goddard ~ Mandurah Cruises

Our 7 newborn dolphins for 2024 are:

  • Mum: Angus – Calf: Shammy – First sighted 4th March
  • Mum: Twenty One – Calf: Quinn – First sighted 6th March
  • Mum: Lowblow – Calf: Lilo – First sighted 31st March
  • Mum: Anna – Calf: Yet to be named – First sighted18th April
  • Mum: Jac – Calf: Jewel – First sighted 12th April
  • Mum: Wendy – Calf: Yet to be named – First sighted 19th April
  • Mum: Squarecut – Calf: Yet to be named – First sighted 27th April

We still have a few female dolphins expecting over the coming months!

Anna and her newborn – © Photo by Natalie Goddard ~ Mandurah Cruises

When the calves are born they weight ~ 20kg and have fetal folds from being folded up inside their mum’s womb. As they grow, they gradually lose these fetal folds, usually at 6+ months of age.

Newborn dolphin fetal folds – © Photo by Natalie Goddard ~ Mandurah Cruises

Dolphin calves are born with whiskers, which fall out one by one over the first 1-2 weeks of life. This is a big indicator as to how many days old a calf is when they are first sighted. You can read about why a dolphin has whiskers in our Dolphins Whiskers blog.

©Photo by Natalie Goddard – Dolphin Hayley’s calf shorltly after birth – May 2019
Newborn dolphin whiskers – © Photo by Natalie Goddard ~ Mandurah Cruises

Dolphin calves stay by their mum’s side for 3 years, before venturing off on their own journey in life. They will suckle their mum’s milk for the first 18 months, which is a toothpaste like consistency, full of nutrients. At 6-months of age they’ll start learning to catch fish also.

It is common to see the mums and their newborn calves all hanging out in the same group. This is what we call a nursery ~ where there is safety in numbers and youngsters learn the dolphin ways of life. The mums and calves in this community don’t roam as much as the males, and so we tend to see them in the same areas.

Angus & Shammy with Lowblow & Lilo – © Photo by Natalie Goddard ~ Mandurah Cruises

While newborn dolphins don’t all make it, as is normal in the wild, our population does have lower mortality rates than most other areas around the world inhabited by Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins. This is predominantly due to the calm, shallow protected waters and lack of predators which allows them to thrive during the critical stage of infancy.

Our human community plays an important role in the health of this population – locals, like Estuary Guardians (Mandurah Volunteer Dolphin Rescue Group), are quick to act if a dolphin strands ~ which can be deadly for them (see our Stranding blog for more about behaviour). Having such quick response rescues helps retain that healthy female population, producing calves for generations to come. There is no immigration into the Mandurah dolphin population so it is critical these breeding females are protected.

Squarecut and her newborn – © Photo by Natalie Goddard ~ Mandurah Cruises

We can all do our part to ensure their continued health – including never littering, taking your fishing gear home with you and if you’re out boating please go slow for those below and give our dolphins plenty of space, especially during this crucial time as the newborns learn the dolphin ways of life and bond with their mum.

Our tour guides are all deeply involved in the Mandurah dolphin community, and can identify individuals by their fins. If you want to learn more about our newborns, and who’s who and who’s doing what, just ask on your next dolphin cruise, where dolphins are guaranteed or you come again on us!