On Sunday February 10, the news was shared in a cetacean-interest Facebook group that Amity, Sea World Gold Coast’s elderly dolphin had died. The comments that followed were mostly from people who had known and worked with Amity during their careers, and it was clear that there was a genuine fondness for this captive dolphin.
Amity received her name from the area where she was collected – Amity Banks in Moreton Bay, Queensland. Estimated to be around 3 or 4 years of age, it is believed Amity was captured (possibly rescued) in 1966, at a time when wild dolphin capture was still legal in Australia.
It is likely that Amity belonged to the resident population in that area, and as a juvenile Australian humpback dolphin (Sousa sahulensis), she may have been taken from her mother or may have recently become independent, as calves of this species usually stay with Mums for around 4 years. Amity was, until recent years, classified as an Indo-Pacific humpback (Sousa chinensis) but in 2014, the Australian humpback dolphin was identified as a separate species.
Amity was originally displayed at Marineland of Australia (Southport) and Jack Evans’ Pet Porpoise Pool (Tweed Heads), before being moved to Sea World in 1979.
Amity’s age was not precise but it was estimated that she was around 57-58 years of age. As a recently identified species and with most data coming from other species of Sousa, little is known about the longevity of the Australian humpback dolphin in the wild, however Amity was often referenced in articles that related to her species’ lifespan because of her age. Her species, classified as ‘Vulnerable’ in Australia, in the wild faces threats such as food chain pollution, entanglement, boating activities and noise pollution.
Trevor Long, Director of Marine Sciences at the park described Amity to the Black Cove team as a ‘surrogate mum’ to all the young rescued dolphins that came in to the park. It was clear to us during our invited research visits to the park that she had a big personality and was a favourite of the staff. She had a “good innings” and will be missed by many.
We send our condolences to the staff who cared for Amity at Sea World Gold Coast and to those whom she left her mark on.