Orca calf refloated successfully

DELWYN DICKEY
Last updated 11:33 28/03/2014

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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.

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.

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