News ID: 316430
Published: 0817 GMT September 19, 2021

From dolphins to a leopard seal: One rescue after another in New Zealand

From dolphins to a leopard seal: One rescue after another in New Zealand
Two boats transported the dolphins to deeper waters on the other side of Mana Island.

It was one stressful event after another for rescuers over the weekend at Owhiro Bay in Wellington, New Zealand, as they rushed to help three stranded dolphins and a leopard seal, which had an elephant fish stuck in its mouth after attempting to have it for breakfast.

On Saturday, three young dusky dolphins were found stranded and an operation was launched by the New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DOC), Project Jonah and Whale Rescue to refloat the dolphins in deeper waters on the other side of Mana Island, according to

While two dolphins were successfully refloated, Whale Rescue coordinator Linda Robinson said the other dolphin died just before the release, likely from stress.

The dolphin had been buried and blessed by Ngati Toa.

The dolphins had been disoriented and did not know where they were, Robinson said.

Robinson, who helped with the operation on land, said two to three volunteers, all of whom had attended a stranding before, were assigned to a dolphin each.

One of those volunteers was Mandy Coleman, who said the dolphins did not know how to get back to deeper waters and kept trying to swim towards the shallow inlet.

Two boats transported the dolphins to deeper waters on the other side of Mana Island.

Robinson said it was “unusual” for dusky dolphins, a type of dolphin often found in deep coastal waters, to have swum towards the shallow waters of the harbor.

“We still don't know why they came in.”

While it was fairly easy for Robinson to coordinate rescue efforts for the three dolphins, there had been concerns with the boats, which would carry the dolphins to deeper waters, potentially getting stuck due to low tide, she said.

While everyone had wanted all three to survive, she was glad two of them had made it, she said.

“If they had received no help, they would have all died in the harbor.”

With two of the dolphins successfully released, Robinson said some volunteers headed from Porirua Harbour to Owhiro Bay, to tend to a leopard seal.

The leopard seal had washed up on Saturday morning and was being monitored after eating an elephant fish that had got stuck in its mouth, she said.

Crew were keeping an eye on the leopard seal and had been rotating with two-hour blocks.

“Vets are there along with DOC. The leopard seal is a lot happier than before."

DOC spokeswoman Cassandra Spearin​ said the leopard seal left the beach around 11.30a.m. on Sunday but staff were still monitoring the situation.

The seal had an elephant fish spine embedded in the top of its mouth and a cordon had initially been put in place around the seal to keep it and people safe, Spearin said.

Staff had been taking photos and sending those to DOC's technical advisors who with Wildlife Vets, she said.

“The current advice is to wait and monitor. It's hoped that the spine will dislodge naturally,” Spearin said.


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