19-December-2008--When the sun beats down on Mahia Beach and the sea is calm, Moko the friendly bottlenose dolphin cuts a familiar shape against the horizon.
The three-year-old dolphin has made Mahia Beach her home for more than a year-and-a-half, and now the summer holidays bring a new batch of eager children to entertain.
Many a bodyboard, crayfish buoy and rugby ball have been taken out to sea, never to be seen again, as the cheeky dolphin continues to play on her own.
Others have been on the receiving end of Moko's generosity, said Department of Conservation programme manager Jamie Quirk.
"She has actually been bringing fish to people. People have had kahawai and gurnard brought to them and some lucky people have had her bring them seahorses," he said.
Mahia local Bill Shortt has been watching Moko's movements since she first came to the region during Easter 2007.
"Moko is getting tamer than ever," he said.
"It's really amusing. She comes right into the shore now, into only a few feet of water to play with the children.
"She certainly hasn't gone anywhere. She follows boats in and out of the bay and plays havoc with my cray pots. She bunts the buoys and drags the pots together, tangling them."
Moko gained international attention when she saved two pygmy sperm whales from certain death after they stranded themselves.
A large sandbar just offshore confused the whales, who kept turning back and stranding again, until Moko appeared out of nowhere to lead the whales through the boat channel and out to sea and safety.
Moko's fame had brought even more visitors to the region, said Mr Shortt.
"Ever since that rescue she has been in virtually every newspaper and on every TV screen across the world but she just continues to cruise around here and wait for people to come play with her.
"We had a group of girls from France and Germany not long ago. After swimming with Moko they were so excited and called home straight away.
"She has certainly grown over winter, so it is timely to warn people that she is not a pet or a play thing.
"People can have amazing experiences with her but they need to remember she is now even more capable of inflicting injuries on people, should they do something she doesn't particularly like.
"People need to treat her with dignity that a wild animal like her deserves."