Community rescues dolphin

By Mike Dinsdale

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A pod of dolphins entered Whananaki Estuary on Monday, but on Tuesday  one was left stranded, sparking a rescue operation. Photo / Julia Johnson
A pod of dolphins entered Whananaki Estuary on Monday, but on Tuesday one was left stranded, sparking a rescue operation. Photo / Julia Johnson

When Chad and Angelique Bennett moved to Whananaki more than two years ago the last thing they expected to be doing was rescuing a dolphin from the shallows.

But, on Tuesday, the pair were joined by others from the coastal community to rescue a three-metre female dolphin that had become stranded after playing in the Whananaki Estuary.

Mr Bennett said there had been a pod of dolphins in the estuary the previous day and he received a call from fellow resident Amy Donaldson about 8am on Tuesday saying one of the dolphins was on its own in the shallows. With low tide approaching, there were concerns it would strand. So the locals swung into action, including Mr Bennett.

"I paddled out. It was only knee deep where it was struggling to swim, a few more people were gathered to help move her, and we made a cradle with a tarp, dragged her to deeper water. We then paddled with her to the mouth of the estuary to make sure she got all the way."

Other residents, including Martin Edge, Amy Donaldson, Amy Robbins, Whananaki School principal Shaun Te Pania, George Oliver and Carla Turner, helped out. Mr Bennett said it was an awesome experience for all the rescuers.

He and Angelique moved up from Auckland about two-and-a-half years ago and, while they regularly saw marine life, they never expected to be rescuing a dolphin. "We just thought we'd better get in and help and, like the rest of the locals, didn't think twice about it. It was pretty amazing to get that close to her and help her out ... it was really cool."

Mr Te Pania said it was a wonderful experience to see the community working together. "I just wish it had been during school time and I could have taken the kids. They would have loved it," he said.

As the rescue was unfolding, Mr Bennett also rang the 0800 SeeOrca hotline for advice. At the other end of the line was Bay of Islands-based dolphin expert Floppy Halliday. Ms Halliday offered advice and asked for a photo. She immediately recognised it as the mother of a baby dolphin known as Ropey, who was untangled from a crayfish pot rope in the Bay in December 2008. "They did all the right things in rescuing her. They did a great job," she said.

- Northern Advocate

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