Orca calf refloated successfully

22:33, Mar 27 2014
Orca stranded 1
DWARFED: The young small orca in “oversized” stranding pontoons developed especially for adult orca and able to handle an adult male.
Orca stranded 1
TOWING BRIDLE: DOC Senior Ranger Thelma Wilson attaches the towing bridle to the front of the pontoons prior to taking the calf back out to sea. developed especially for adult orca and able to handle an adult male.
Orca stranded 1
HELPING HAND: Project Jonah volunteers monitor the whale while local helpers bucket water onto her to keep her cool bridle to the front of the pontoons prior to taking the calf back out to sea. developed especially for adult orca and able to handle an adult male.

Locals worked for five hours to refloat an orca calf found stranded on a remote Te Arai beach last night.

The young animal was found just before dark by the Mangawhai South forest caretaker who alerted DOC and Project Jonah.

A group of locals then  turned up with buckets to help keep the young animal wet until further help arrived.

Once DOC staff arrived with more equipment, the orca was then carefully rolled onto two rescue mats and stabilised with specially designed pontoons, ready to be refloated. 

A group of Orca had been seen close inshore earlier in the day. It seems likely the youngster was feeding or chasing stingrays in shallow water and became stranded on the beach as the tide fell.

As the youngsters pod was likely to be close by, and sea and weather conditions were good, the decision was made to refloat the animal in the dark rather than waiting for daylight.

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At approximately 3.2m long, and weighing an estimated 500kg, the calf was just small enough for helpers to carry it back into the water.

Mangawhai Surf Club members were then able to tow the large dolphin into deeper water where it was released about mid night.

"Throughout her ordeal, the calf was very vocal, squealing and clicking but also remaining surprisingly calm and breathing steadily, without showing many signs of stress."  DOC Senior Ranger Thelma Wilson says.

"Once the group began to move her towards the water she became quiet."

Project Jonah volunteers checked the beach on this morning to make sure the animal had not re-stranded anywhere else. 

Locals who were helping the animals had done all the right things by keeping her cool, calm  and stable, which made the refloating process very easy, Wilson said.

Rodney Times