A huge community effort to save two humpback whales stranded on Sunday morning at Ripiro beach, approximately two kilometres south of Baylys, has Department of Conservation and Project Jonah staff humbled at the response and support.
They were sighted by a local resident around 8am who advised DOC, and the rescue operation was coordinated with staff from Project Jonah. More than 150 volunteers arrived to help keep the mother and calf wet and upright as the team waited for high tide to free them.
The local fire service and coastguard attended, as well as local farmers with tractors, all providing essential manpower to turn the whales’ heads seaward to prevent them from rolling over.
“Despite some recent bad publicity involving seals, this proves the majority of Kaipara people care about the environment and our wildlife,” said local resident, Andy Bryenton.
Staff monitored the whales overnight, however, by morning were disappointed to find the more debilitated of the pair had died and would be buried on the beach.
Throughout Monday, volunteers were kept busy cupping fresh water to the surviving whale’s eyes to prevent them drying out. Two large diggers were making a deep trench in preparation for floating her out on the next high tide, expected around 5pm, at Lifestyler press time, towards other whales sighted offshore.
“We have had an incredible response from the community; we certainly appreciate their continuing support. We are doing all we can to keep the whale as comfortable as we can under the circumstances. Her welfare is of the utmost importance,” said DOC operations manager, Stephen Soole.
Why whales come so close to shore and get stranded is unknown. “Whales, just like us, make mistakes for the simplest of reasons, and it could have just been that the young one was playing with a piece of seaweed in the surf and then got caught in the surge, who knows,” said marine biologist Dr Ingrid Visser. For further information visit projectjonah.org.nz.