Nari's Journey

Sat, 01 Jul 2017

By Tangalooma Island Resort

Nari the dolphin's Incredible 20 year journey

Flashback to February 2009, when staff of Tangalooma’s Dolphin Care team were preparing for the evening’s dolphin feed. It was a normal evening at Tangalooma… until Conservation Centre Manager, Susan Hassard noticed out of the corner of her eye well-known dolphin, Nari, cautiously arrive. Ordinarily one of the more colourful personalities amongst the Tangalooma dolphin family, Nari appeared weak and defeated, and Susan knew that something wasn’t quite right with her beloved Nari.

Mrs Hassard said that this was by far the most memorable moment of her experience with wild dolphins in over 20 years. “We’ve known Nari since he was born! We were there when Nari’s mother, Bess gave birth to him, and we have been by his side ever since watching his journey in the wild and with our guests at each evening's feed.”

“To have spent so much time with Nari throughout his recovery, and have him swim directly towards me as if to say ‘Hey Sue! I’m back and am totally fine!’ was a moment I’ll continually relive and remember forever!”

As Nari swam closer to the shore, Susan caught a glimpse of some horrific injuries. On the upper half of Nari’s back, Susan could see wide gashes and missing blubber from the top of his head. Onlookers couldn’t believe that Tangalooma’s favourite dolphin was so badly hurt. The Dolphin Care Team sprang into action, examining Nari and his injuries. He had suffered 3 large bites on the top of his head, believed to be the work of a 3 metre bull shark from the outer regions of Moreton Bay.

At the time, Nari’s relationship with the Tangalooma Dolphin Care Team had lasted for over 12 years, and his notable bond with team manager Susan Hassard led many to believe that Nari came that evening looking for help, knowing he could trust his human friends.

Nari had arrived at Tangalooma quite late that evening, and Tangalooma Island Resort Director, Trevor Hassard said that the timing meant that the team were not adequately prepared to safely rescue Nari from the water. However, the team knew they urgently needed to help Nari and administer treatment. To save Nari, the team coordinated the most extensive dolphin rescue to this day. A plan carefully coordinated between Tangalooma’s Marine Education and Conservation Centre, Sea Worlds Director Trevor long and his team of trained rescue professionals from Sea World animal rescue veterinary section.

On 16th Feb 2009, onlookers watched in anticipation as trained staff began Nari’s rescue plan. The rescue team took Nari from the water on a stretcher, moving him up the beach for closer assessment. Shortly after, Nari was transported to one of Sea World’s leading rehabilitation facilities at Southport on the Gold Coast to undergo further treatment.

Throughout Nari's recovery, Susan Hassard spent countless house by his side. The pair's bond grew stronger, as Nari spent 7 weeks in rehabilitation, undergoing extensive surgery to remove damaged blubber and tissue.

Susan stood by Nari every step of the way, and eventually, Nari slowly began regaining his appetite and strength to survive back out in the wild.

In early April, Trevor Long and veterinarian David Blyde, examined Nari and concluded that his recovery was complete. Nari had been completely rehabilitated and was fit to return to the wild. On the 7th of April, Nari was transported on Sea World One’s rescue vessel, back to the beaches of Tangalooma. He was released back into the wild, as eager resort guests and staff looked on to welcome Nari home to Moreton Bay.

The tissues were definitely on hand that day, as Ms Hassard recalls “I remember struggling to see a dry eye on the beach.”

Nari’s transformation was incredible, from the weak and cautious dolphin who had arrived in February. Ms Hassard speaks of the bond between the mammals, describing how Nari’s dolphin friend Echo greeted him.

“His best mate Echo came straight over to him! He nuzzled into the side of Nari. It was like he was saying ‘Nari are you alright? Where have you been?’”

A little worse for wear, Nari spent a short time in the shallows of the Tangalooma beach regaining his confidence. When suddenly, he re-joined the rest of his pod bravely swimming back into the deeper waters of Moreton Bay.

The following evening, staff and guests waited at the dolphin feed excitedly, with their fingers crossed that Nari would return to his normal routine - a routine that had become so regular he had only missed a few feeds in his 12 year attendance at the dolphin feeding programme!

Click here to learn more about the Tangalooma Marine Education and Conservation Centre, including the Dolphin Care Team.

Not long after the feed began, the crowds atop the Tangalooma Jetty began cheering as Nari shot into the beach….straight towards Sue! The pair re-united, in a tear-jerking moment that many have dubbed as one of the most memorable in the history of Tangalooma’s Provisional Wild Dolphin Feeding Programme.


Susan Hassard

  • Current Manager - Dolphin Feeding Program

  • Started as a casual feeder in 1997

  • Became Manager of the program in 2009

  • Trained to perform dolphin rescues and have been involved in 8 dolphin rescues in the program since 2001

Trevor Hassard

  • Director

  • Manager of the program 1995

  • Director of the program in 1997 overseeing all operations of the Tangalooma Dolphin Provisioning Programme

About the author

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