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Residents join forces to save stranded whale

A stranded pygmy sperm whale was saved by the actions of Gisborne residents at Midway Beach yesterday.

Jessie Madden, along with a woman, her partner and two Gisborne Boys' High students, got the pygmy whale back into the water at around lunchtime.

“The Boys' High students managed to lift her up out of the hole she dug herself in,” Ms Madden said.

“We waited for the waves to come in in order to turn her and roll her over, so she could use her tail to steer herself back into the sea.

“It took about 15 minutes and then she was able to swim back out to sea.”

New Zealand is a hotspot for marine mammal strandings, according to the Department of Conservation.

The most common species that strand alone are common dolphins, pygmy sperm whales and beaked whales.

Since 1840, more than 5000 strandings of whales and dolphins have been recorded around the New Zealand coastline. Strandings occur all year round and usually involve just one or two animals.

DoC manages whale strandings and rescues with the help of local communities, volunteers and organisations.

DoC responds to an average of 85 stranding incidents a year, usually single animals.

Mass strandings occasionally occur and the majority of these are long-finned pilot whales.

Large whales such as sperm whales have stranded on occasions, including the tragic 1970 stranding of 59 sperm whales at Wainui Beach.”

“Anyone can help out at a stranding event as long as they are physically able. Your efforts are much appreciated by DoC,” a DoC spokesperson told The Herald.

“Many whales are saved each year with the help of volunteers. Every effort contributes towards their conservation,” DOC said.

If you come across a whale or dolphin stranding ring the DoC emergency hotline 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).

STRANDED: Samuel Lewis from Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust with a stranded pygmy whale on Midway beach yesterday. Pictures be Rebecca Grunwell
HELPING HANDS: Beach-goers help return a stranded whale to the sea.