KAILUA-KONA — A necropsy is being conducted to determine the cause of death of a dolphin recovered Monday from Kealakekua Bay.
Tom Elliot, stranding coordinator for the Big Island with NOAA’s Pacific Island Region Marine Mammal Response Network, said Tuesday that there were no signs of shark bites on the corpse, though there had been reports of a shark in the area.
Elliot, one of three volunteers who responded around noon Monday to the report, was unable to say how long the dolphin may have been deceased, but noted that when recovered its body was not in “very bad shape.”
He added that Department of Land and Natural Resources staff was able to contact a cultural practitioner to say a prayer, or pule, over the dolphin before it was transported to be flown to Oahu.
Gordon Leslie, a prominent member of the Napoopoo community who’s lived on the bay for four decades, was the person to bless the naia, which is the Hawaiian word for dolphin.
“I thought that was very sensitive, that before she moved the naia and sent it to Honolulu, she wanted some proper send off from the village, from the community, so they called me and asked if I can find someone,” said Leslie who added that all the people he knew were too far away to make it to the bay in time.
A necropsy was conducted Monday by Kristi West with the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Results from the probe will take some time, unless there is something “grossly obvious” found to determine cause of death, Elliot said.
The DLNR said a tourist reported Monday seeing the dolphin in waters at the north end of Napoopoo beach, before the pali, or cliff. Though people reported seeing a shark in the area, a Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement officer did not observe see any sharks while there.
Kealakekua Bay is home to a pod of resident spinner dolphins, according to DLNR. The bay provides one of the few available daytime resting areas for naia on the island. It’s also used for feeding, resting and playing.
In the event someone does come across alive stranded marine mammal, Elliot stressed people should never try to push the animal back into the water because “a lot of these animals are so sick that when they strand they are trying to breathe and not drown.”
Instead, report it to NOAA by calling (888) 256-9840.