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Page last updated at 09:35 GMT, Monday, 27 July 2009 10:35 UK

Playful dolphin strands NZ woman

Moko the dolphin
Moko simply did not want his fun with the swimmer to end

A New Zealand swimmer got into difficulty when a friendly dolphin stopped her returning to shore.

The woman had been swimming with the dolphin, called Moko, at Mahia Beach on the North Island. But the playful dolphin did not want the fun to end.

People at a nearby cafe eventually heard her cries for help, and rowed out to her rescue.

She was found, exhausted and extremely cold, clinging to a buoy. She said the dolphin had meant no harm.

The woman, who wanted to remain anonymous, was wearing a wetsuit. But even that eventually failed to protect her from the winter cold.

Panic

She told the Gisborne Herald newspaper: "I went out by myself quite late, which probably was not the wisest thing to do.

"We were playing around for a while but then when I wanted to go back in, he just wanted to keep playing. I became exhausted and started to panic."

Map

Moko took up residence at Mahia Beach, south of Gisborne, two years ago, and has become a major attraction.

During the summer, hundreds of people take to the water to play with him. But there are fewer people around in the winter, and residents believe he gets lonely and bored.

Moko, a three-year-old bottlenose dolphin, gained worldwide fame in March last year, when he was seen coming to the rescue of two pygmy sperm whales.

The whales - a mother and daughter - were exhausted and confused, unable to find their way past a sandbar. Moko was seen guiding them down a narrow channel to safety.

But scientists are concerned about Moko's welfare. In a recent study they found he had been scarred by boats and a fish hook.

They pointed out that of the 30 "lone" dolphins identified around the world, 14 had already been injured or had died as a result of their interaction with humans.



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