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Do’s and don’ts of helping out in strandings

Project Jonah, the charity dedicated to saving stranded marine mammals, came to Gisborne to teach a class of would-be rescuers.

Project Jonah general manager Daren Grover and communications and volunteer co-ordinator Louisa Hawkes advised the class of 24 what to do and what not to do when discovering a stranded dolphin or whale.

Mr Grover said it was a great day and the class was fully engaged.

“Some of the students shared their own experiences of a whale or dolphin stranding,” Mr Grover said.

“There was quite a lot to unpack about people's past experiences at strandings. A lot had emotions of feeling helpless because they didn't know what to do when they spotted a whale stranded on the beach.”

Going to the Project Jonah class helped them to better understand what they can do to help.

The class covered the anatomy and physiology of marine mammals. They also learned about the role of the Department of Conservation in a stranding.

Inflatable whales and dolphins were used to simulate what to do when trying to refloat a marine mammal.

“If you find a stranded dolphin or whale always call for help on 0800 DOC HOT or 0800 4 WHALE and follow the advice that is given,” Mr Grover said.

Volunteers of all ages attended the training day, including a woman who was a child when 60 sperm whales stranded along Wainui Beach in July 1970.

Students said they were glad they had taken part, and they now felt prepared to help in a stranding.

All who completed the class had their details put into Project Jonah's database.

When there is a stranding and volunteers are needed a text message is sent to those in the region asking if they can attend.

Volunteers who are able to attend can reply yes and will be given specific details from Project Jonah.

“Some regions have a few hundred volunteers, but here in Gisborne there are about 50,” Mr Grover said.

“We are a marine mammal welfare organisation. Our main goal is to respond to marine mammals in distress and help them return to the ocean to live out the rest of their natural lives.”

THIS WAY: Louisa Hawkes of Project Jonah showing some of the class what to do in a stranding. Picture by Paul Rickard
Project Jonah: Daren Grover (in the purple) explaing different methods to use to save stranded marine mammals. Picture by Paul Rickard.