Nelson girl Jacqueline Austin, 11, will be able to tell her class about how she helped save a juvenile dusky dolphin when she goes back to school this week.
Her mother Fran Bishop said she, Jacqueline and sister Laeticia, 9, were walking their dogs at the Boulder Bank when they spotted a pod of four dolphins just offshore.
She said she decided to keep an eye on the dolphins in case of strandings as the winds were "ferocious", and sure enough, on their way back Jacqueline spotted a baby dolphin stuck in the mud at low tide.
"I said I thought it was a stick, and Jacqueline said, ‘No, it's a shark, it's a shark'."
Avid fans of nature documentaries such as the late Steve Irwin's The Crocodile Hunter, the girls were able to put their knowledge into practice during the dolphin's rescue. The family called the Department of Conservation and Nelson SPCA before spreading towels from their car across the dolphin to keep it moist.
Ms Bishop said her daughters knew to keep away from the animal's tail in case it hurt them while thrashing.
"We're all still on a high," she said afterwards. "That's a good story to go back to school with."
DOC ranger Simon Bayly said Ms Bishop and her family did everything right in their dolphin rescue. He said it simply got "caught out" by the outgoing tide and shallow water.
With the help of four young people who stopped their car to assist, Mr Bayly, Ms Bishop and the girls carried the dolphin around 100 metres through the mud to get it into a DOC van. It was then transported to a boat ramp at Nelson Marina and released.
Mr Bayly said he thought the refloating was likely to be a success. "It was very healthy, it didn't hesitate to swim off when we let it go."
Project Jonah representatives stayed at the marina to make sure the dolphin did not re-strand.
- © Fairfax NZ News