The Crookedfin Lineage

Crookedfin, aptly named for her crooked dorsal fin, was an original Monkey Mia beach dolphin.

Crookedfin started visiting the beach sporadically in the 1970’s, but it was clear that she did not like to visit the beach when the male alliance of Sicklefin, Snubnose and Bibi were around. However, after the three males died from exposure to pollution from a septic tank leakage in 1989, she visited frequently up until her death in 1992. Crookedfin was always hesitant in allowing people to touch her and would beg for fish less often than other beach dolphins. When she died, her son, Cookie, was suddenly orphaned at 3.5 years, but seemed to find solace in associating with his older sister, Puck, and his long-time male associate, Smokey, another orphan of the same age. Puck continues to visit the beach to this day, but Cookie chose not to be involved in the beach feeding. Ever since he was weaned, Cookie has stayed away from the beach and is frequently sighted in Red Cliff Bay. Cookie bears large shark bite scars on his peduncle (tail stock), from an attack a few years ago. 

Puck was most likely Crookedfin’s first surviving offspring. Like her mother, Puck visited the beach sporadically in the 1970’s and 80’s. However after her first calf (who died within days) was born, she became a regular visitor. Puck had five calves after that; the next two, Petal and Pépé, died within a couple of months after birth. Her fourth calf, Piccolo, was the first to survive to weaning. In 1994, Puck became entangled in a fishing net while chasing mullet. The fishermen did not notice, but fortunately Dr. Janet Mann had been following Nicky nearby and saw Puck struggling in the net. She alerted the fishers to release her from the net before she drowned. Puck had become wrapped in the net and couldn’t surface to breathe. Piccolo was still quite young, just over one year of age, and was clearly panicking during the incident, whistling loudly and zipping back and forth. All the ridges on Puck’s fin are scars from the incident, and if you visit Monkey Mia you might also see the net marks on her head. To date, netting is still allowed in Red Cliff Bay.

Piccolo, born in 1992, was the first calf born to a provisioned mother to survive and show an interest in people at the beach. Piccolo is very close to her mother, and they spend much of their time together, both at and away from the beach. Puck and Piccolo probably have the strongest mother-daughter relationship in Red Cliff Bay. When she is not with her mum, she is often with her girlfriend, Shock.

In 1999 the DPaW rangers attempted to hand feed Piccolo, while researchers Amy Samuels, Cindy Flaherty and Kym Pearce observed closely. Piccolo seemed more interested in the attention than the fish. During the feeding trial Piccolo tried to offer the ranger a fresh whiting she had caught (pictured below). This was possibly a tastier option than the dead fish she was being offered to her! Eventually however, Piccolo did start taking fish from the rangers and she is now one of the five provisioned dolphins. In February 2004, Piccolo made the transition from taking fish from the rangers to taking fish from supervised tourists.

In November of 2003 Piccolo gave birth to her first calf, Eden, making her one of the youngest dolphins to give birth in Shark Bay, at just over 11 years of age. Eden has now been successfully weaned and has ventured off to explore the rest of the bay, but she still comes back to the beach for an occasional visit. In 2007, Piccolo gave birth to a second daughter, Flute, was is doing well and quite large for her age, and who regularly visits the beach with her mother and grandmother.

Puck’s next daughter Kiya was born in 1997 and she often came to the beach with her mother. Kiya was attacked by a shark in 1999, and if you happen to visit the beach she’s easily recognizable by the shark bite scar on the left hand side of her body. Nevertheless Kiya survived and has flourished and has birthed two calves. The first, Khamun, died within a year of her birth in 2009. Kiya had her second calf in 2012, Wirriya, who is still alive and well.

Puck’s next calf was born in early December of 2002 and only lived for a few months until it died on March 31st, 2003. This calf was named Wada, which is an Aboriginal word meaning “Pearl”. On March 31st, Puck and Wada came to the beach for the first feed of the day but neither of them came back for the second feed. When Puck returned later in the afternoon, Wada was nowhere to be found. The most likely case was that Wada was taken by a shark sometime between the first and last feed of that day.

Puck then gave birth to her first surviving son, India, in 2004. India was very close to his mother and continued to spend a lot of time with her even after he was weaned, despite being a very proficient forager. However, when her next calf was born, India had to move off and start spending time with boys his own age in order to start forming an alliance.

Samu was Puck’s last calf, born on December 12th, 2009, and named in honor of Dr. Amy Samuels, a longtime researcher at Monkey Mia who passed away in December 2008. Puck and Samu became famous as the stars of a BBC wildlife documentary about the Dolphins of Shark Bay! Pamela Turner also wrote a children’s book by the same name that recounts Puck’s life.

Cousins Piper and Wirriya are the newest weaned member of the Crookedfin family, born to Piccolo in 2011 and her sister Kiya in 2012, respectively. Piccolo had two calves, Harp in 2015 and Dizi in 2017 who survived less than a year, and daughter Eden also lost her baby Holiday in 2017 after only a few months. Piccolo gave birth to Pan in 2018, and Kiya also had Jindi. In 2019 Eden had Summer, and all three nursing calves are currently doing well.

Puck passed away in the spring of 2019, leaving behind a great legacy and a large family.

Kiya with her first daughter Khamun.
Photo Credit: Eric Patterson