Dolphins shepherded to safety

Common dolphins shepherded to safety. Photo credit: Marc Herbulot

29 July 2009

Two small Common dolphins were shepherded to safety following fears they would strand again in one of the many creeks, estuaries and streams of Auckland's Waitemata Harbour.

Project Jonah received a call late Monday afternoon when the dolphins became trapped by receding water at Brighams Creek.  As the tide dropped the animals were left stranded in a small pool of water, unable to swim to safety.

Little could be done for them as darkness fell.  And a decision was made to leave them overnight rather than relocate them and potentially cause them further stress.

DOC and Project Jonah returned first thing the following morning to discover the animals had managed to re-float themselves on the evening high tide.

"We hoped that this would be the case'', said Kimberly Muncaster, CEO of Project Jonah, ''but we were still concerned that the animals would simply re-strand up another estuary or creek".

By 8am, more than eight kayakers from Auckland Canoe & Kayak were deployed to search the neighbouring estuaries and creeks, which were mostly inaccessible by land. 

"At 10am we received a call from Justine, one of our kayakers.  She had spotted the two dolphins feeding at the mouth of Hellyers Creek," said Kimberly.

With the animals in sight DOC deployed their boat and re-mobilised the other kayakers to the scene.  By blocking the mouth of Hellyers Creek and slowly reeving the engine DOC were able to deter the animals from moving upstream.  

''With a huge amount of patience and will we were able to move the animals towards the mouth of the harbour and out of harm's way.  Having the help of kayakers, who were able to first scout out the animals and then help guide them to safety was invaluable", says Kimberly.
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