Rescuers were hard at work in Browns Bay, Auckland on Saturday getting a stranded whale back into the water.

At least, that's what local residents and passersby may have thought.

Resident Lynn lives in an apartment overlooking the beach, and peered out her front window in the afternoon to see people at work moving what appeared to be a small whale.

"Initially we thought they were just practising, it was just a couple [of people] there."


She thought the whale was just a rubber dummy until a team of about 12 people began working around it.

As it turned out, her first instincts were correct - the inflatable pilot whale was a fake, used in an educational course by Project Jonah.

"They dug underneath it to put a blanket under, then in the end they dragged it out. They just took it in the water and then they left."

She first noticed the "rescue" effort in the early afternoon, and said the team were still out there past 5pm.

About half a dozen people were on the beach watching them, she said.

Department of Conservation marine ranger Krista Hupman said they often had people calling in to the DOC hotline to report stranded whales when it was actually just an exercise.

"This happens all the time," she said.

Project Jonah is a registered charity working on rescue, education, and protection of marine mammals and the oceans. They provide a course to teach people how to help rescue stranded animals.

Hupman wanted to remind people to contact DOC if they came across a stranded marine mammal.