Moko’s magic could save fellow dolphins

By Rebecca Cawston

NotT many people can say they have played a rousing game of fetch with a dolphin.

Amy Taylor of Papamoa has, and even though she used a dead baby shark for a ball, becoming friends with Moko the celebrity dolphin was one of the highlights of her life.

Ms Taylor is a marine biologist and film-maker. She is also a passionate anti-whaler who is equally concerned about dolphins.

She vehemently opposes the annual slaying of dolphins in Taiji, Japan, and is working on a documentary film of her Moko experiences to help promote protection of dolphins on a worldwide scale.

Two years ago Ms Taylor heard of the overly friendly bottlenose dolphin hanging about East Coast shores and befriending the locals.

''I just knew I had to go and meet that dolphin,'' she says.

Thinking it would be like finding a needle in a haystack, Ms Taylor packed her underwater camera equipment and travelled to Whakatane.

Her first encounter with Moko was memorable. She swam out about 500 metres-so far that local lifeguards came to see if she was all right-in search of him.

''He went under my tummy and lifted me up out of the water . . . then he took off and came back with this dead baby hammerhead shark in his mouth.

He was like a dog with a stick and we played for a few hours,'' Ms Taylor said.

She was sold and spent the next five months filming Moko. Some days she was in the water for eight hours.

She was also filming the woman who had become his protector, Kirsty Carrington.

But Moko swam up towards Tauranga harbour and was found dead at Matakana Island.

Ms Taylor helped identify Moko, a traumatic experience. She says she lost a dear friend that day.

''The whole thing shows that there's no division between us and animals. You can have a friend that's a dolphin just like you can have a friend just down the road.

''Because he was wild and he choose to be with us, makes it quite magical,'' she said.

A TV3 documentary with her footage was broadcast early this year. But Ms Taylor still has 45 hours of Moko footage and decided to create a film in the hope it will be shown at film festivals.

The venture is in connection with Mountainside Films which made The Whale, a similar story based on a friendly orca.

She hopes the film will premier in Japan, where the slaying of dolphins takes place in Taiji from September every year.

This is a cause close to her heart. She urges people to watch The Cove, a documentary that exposes this slaughter.

For anti-whaling day last year, the feisty activist organised a demonstration walk up Queen St.

Husband Mike Smith is also on the same page. He was one of the crew on board the anti-whaling boat Ady Gil which were rammed by a Japanese whaling ship in 2010.

? Know an unsung hero making a difference? Please email

- Bay of Plenty Times

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