June 25 2017, updated 9:15am

Moko the friendly dolphin saves whales

'It was like she grabbed them by the flipper and led them to safety'

Last updated 09:41 12/03/2008
HELPING FLIPPER: Moko, whose legend has grown with the saving of two stranded whales, plays with a swimmer at Waikokopu Bay, Mahia, this summer.

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It could have been a scene from a movie when Mahia's Moko the dolphin came out of nowhere to save two pygmy sperm whales from what looked like certain death.

The playful dolphin, who has set up home around Mahia on the East Coast, was the perfect helper on Monday as Department of Conservation worker Malcolm Smith toiled to refloat the mother whale and her one-year-old male calf.

"It was amazing. It was like she grabbed them by the flipper and led them to safety," Mr Smith said.

Mr Smith received a call early Monday morning to say two whales had stranded on the south end of Mahia Beach.

"Generally speaking when pygmy sperm whales strand they end up dying, or they are refloated only to strand again later in the day and die.

"We worked for over an hour to try to get them back out to sea. . . but they kept getting disorientated and stranding again.

"There is a large sandbar just off the shore so that could have been very confusing for them - they obviously couldn't find their way back past it to the sea."

After about four unsuccessful refloating attempts it was becoming highly likely the pair would have to be euthanised.

"The whales were getting tired and I was getting cold when Moko turned up.

"She just came straight for us and escorted the two whales along the beach and out through the channel.

"The whales were sitting on the surface of the water quite distressed, they had arched their backs and were calling to one another, but as soon as the dolphin turned up they submerged into the water and followed her."

Moko led the whales about 200m along the beach towards the headland then led the pair all the way out to sea.

"The things that happen in nature never cease to amaze me.

"It was looking like it was going to be a bad outcome for the whales which was very disappointing and then Moko just came along and fixed it."

Mr Smith said it was quite possible Moko had heard the whales calling.

" She obviously gave them enough guidance to leave the area because we haven't seen them since."

Moko however was seen straight after – the playful dolphin swam straight back close to shore to play with local residents.

- NZPA

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