Moko the dolphin "probably" dead - DOC
By Dan Satherley and James Murray
A dolphin washed ashore on Matakana Island may be Moko, the friendly bottlenose known for his playful nature.
The Department of Conservation has confirmed the dead dolphin is "probably" Moko based on his markings, size and sex.
The dolphin is also said to have similar missing teeth to Moko.
DOC spokeswoman Katrina Knill said it was impossible to tell for sure without DNA testing.
Despite this she said: "We are now working on the basis that it is him."
Tauranga news website Sunlive.co.nz has published photos of a dead dolphin which was found this morning. It appears to have been dead for about two weeks.
DOC says Moko was last seen alive early last month. On June 17 they asked the public to report any sightings of him, though people familiar with Moko weren't overly concerned for his safety as he'd disappeared before.
"That dolphin has survived through thick and thin so far," said Mahia resident Bill Shortt told NZPA at the time. "He has gone for longer and had us worried but then he will just reappear out of nowhere."
Moko's friendly nature earned him a nationwide following and his own DoC minders – who were trusted to protect him from the public as well as the public from him.
"Moko is a wild animal and he should be treated with the utmost respect," said DoC ranger Jamie Quirk.
DoC staff are working to identify the dolphin and find out if it is indeed Moko.
Watch raw footage of Moko the dolphin, as he plays alongside beach goers