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Rangers in Western Australia are searching for a dolphin photographed wearing a T-shirt in Koombana Bay. They believe that the garment was deliberately pulled over the animal's head.

The bottlenose was sighted trapped in the T-shirt on Australia Day (26 January) off the coast of Bunbury. Staff from the nearby Dolphin Discovery Centre were informed and sent pictures which show the dolphin impeded by the clothing.

Thankfully, the T-shirt is not blocking the animal's blowhole although it clings very closely to it. Experts from the Western Australia Department of Parks (WAPW) and Wildlife believe that someone deliberately placed the T-shirt over the adult dolphin.

The Department said: "It is unlikely that the dolphin swam into the singlet, so this appears to be an intentional act. This could have been catastrophic for the dolphin if it had covered its blow hole and restricted its breathing. Unfortunately the animal has not been seen since."

Rangers are desperate to track down the dolphin and release it from the obstruction which could prove fatal if it is not removed soon.

If the perpetrator is caught they could face a fine of up to $4,000 (£2,394, $3026) and many Facebook users have expressed their disgust at the cruel act. Linda Doherty said: "What sort of person does this, so angry right now."

Janette O'Brien said: "What is wrong with you idiots? When there are no dolphins then what will we do? These creatures are precious to the environment or ecosystems and your heritage."

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Some 50 bottlenoses are thought to live in Koombana Bay with an estimated further 100 visiting throughout the year, according to Dolphin Discovery Centre in Bunbury.

Officials have been unable to identify the dolphin because the t-shirt was covering its dorsal fin. Were this not the case, fin markings or even an identity tag would have enabled them to check if it was a member of a local herd.

The average bottlenose dolphin lives for over 30 years and grows to be 2m long. They are highly social animals and have often been observed swimming up to humans and interacting with them.

The troubling pictures have emerged simultaneously with shocking video footage from Japan showing a dolphin mother fighting hunters as they rip her calf away from the herd - allegedly in order to sell it to a marine park.

Research cited by dolphins-world.com has suggested that 95% of all dolphin deaths are attributable to causes related to humans. Chief among them are pollution and injuries sustained from fishing expeditions.

This is believed to be the first recorded instance of a person trapping a dolphin in a t-shirt.

If anyone has information about the incident, or has seen the dolphin and can report its location, contact the Parks and Wildlife Bunbury office on WA 9725 4300, or after hours call the Wildcare Helpline on WA 9474 9055.