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Current as of 29/03/17 06:59PM NZST
Vaimoana Tapaleao is the New Zealand Herald's Pacific Affairs and People reporter.

Whale of a time saving whales

Auckland Airport is giving away $120,000 to Kiwi charities as part of its 12 Days of Christmas initiative. The Herald on Sunday and the Herald are profiling each of the recipients.
Project Jonah volunteers get to grips with an inflatable whale at a training session. Photo / Tomi Simola
Project Jonah volunteers get to grips with an inflatable whale at a training session. Photo / Tomi Simola

Saving stranded whales takes a team effort, and one New Zealand charity continues to work hard to train Kiwis to be a part of that life-saving team.

Project Jonah has been saving whales and dolphins for more than 40 years.

It focuses on providing first aid to stranded animals, raising public awareness through training programmes and acting as a watchdog to protect marine environments.

The charity has been named one of 12 recipients that will get $10,000 from Auckland Airport's 12 Days of Christmas initiative.

The money comes from unwanted currency gathered at the airport throughout the year.

General Manager Daren Grover was grateful for the grant, which will go towards buying a specially built life-size dolphin and other equipment.

"We engage with local communities, running training courses over the summer, teaching people what they should do when whales or dolphins strand," Grover said.

"They then become marine mammal medics we can call when we hear of strandings.

"Having them on the ground means they can get to the beach earlier," he said.

"We have a 4-metre inflatable whale which weighs 2 tonnes. Most of the money will go towards buying a new inflatable dolphin."

Project Jonah - Marine Mammal Medic Course from Project Jonah on Vimeo.

More than 2800 people are trained volunteers with Project Jonah.

Grover said many people often showed other members of their community the correct way to handle a stranded animal.

Sometimes, volunteers were inspired to get involved in other parts of the environmental field.

Auckland Airport spokeswoman Anna Cassels-Brown praised the charity's work.

"This gift will help New Zealand's marine mammals when they need it most. It supports the selfless Project Jonah volunteers who give up their time to save these special animals."

For more info visit: projectjonah.org.nz

- Herald on Sunday

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