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Dolphin that survived near-fatal accident seen swimming with calf in Osaka Bay

OSAKA -- A dolphin that survived a near-fatal collision with a ship, and has a scar on her back from the ordeal, has been spotted swimming side by side with her calf in Osaka Bay in western Japan.

    The mother dolphin, who was seen near a fishing port in the town of Misaki, Osaka Prefecture, has inhabited the area from around 2015, and was named "Ruka" by the local fishery cooperative in 2016 after it gathered name ideas from the public. In August 2019, the dolphin sustained a deep gash to her back during an accident where she appeared to have scraped against a vessel. Although the dolphin's life was in peril, she miraculously recovered. While related parties have celebrated the calf's birth, they urge people to "leave them alone for about one year during the breastfeeding period."

    Mother dolphin Ruka, bottom, and her calf that inhabit an area near a fishing port in the town of Misaki, Osaka Prefecture, are seen in this Sept. 25, 2021 image provided by a local resident.

    Yasunobu Nabeshima, 68, a visiting researcher at Osaka Museum of Natural History, and former chief researcher at the Osaka Prefectural Fisheries Experimental Station (currently the prefectural Research Institute of Environment, Agriculture and Fisheries), is an expert on dolphins' ecology, and has known Ruka since she appeared in the Osaka Bay area. According to Nabeshima, based on individual identification, the dolphin is believed to be an Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin born in Amakusa, Kumamoto Prefecture, in southwestern Japan in 2011.

    Although the dolphin was initially thought to be a male due to its habits and other features, its gender was identified after it was confirmed she gave birth to a baby dolphin in mid-September. A 47-year-old local office worker said he spotted the mother and baby dolphin swimming energetically near the fishing port at around noon on Sept. 25. "I was surprised to see that Ruka had a calf," he said.

    Mother dolphin Ruka, bottom, and her calf that inhabit an area near a fishing port in the town of Misaki, Osaka Prefecture, are seen in this Sept. 25, 2021 image taken by a local resident.

    Nabeshima said that the baby dolphin will acquire swimming skills over a period of about three to six months after birth, and expressed concern about the negative impact that potential spectators could have on the calf's progress.

    He said, "There are risks of the dolphin getting injured by being sucked into a vessel's screw propeller, or swimming into a fishing net and getting injured after fleeing in a panic due to shock caused by people's movements. Please don't go near them."

    (Japanese original by Yasutoshi Tsurumi, Osaka City News Department, and Nanami Hidaka, Osaka Regional News Department)

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