New Zealand Wildlife Rescue

In February we blogged about attempts to rescue 417 Pilot Whales that had been found stranded at remote Farewell Spit in the South Island. Sadly, a similar story might be unfolding today, this time involving a stranded Orca Whale, stranded on a beach near the town of Blenheim. We'll follow the rescue effort, starting with this report from New Zealand's 'New Zealand Herald'. Update - SUCCESS!

Yesterday afternoon, after we wrote this story, volunteers managed to return the ocra to the open sea.

Army helping refloat stricken orca whale stranded on Marlborough beach

November 13, 2017

Hopes are now pinned on an orca, stranded on a beach 25 miles south of Blenheim, swimming out to safety at high tide this afternoon.

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The army, including 25 soldiers from New Zealand, Canada, America and Australia on a multi-national exercise in the region, are digging a deep trench to the ocean in a bid to refloat the young male orca stranded on sand at Marfells Beach.

Project Jonah general manager Daren Grover said the soldiers were making great headway digging a trench to the ocean allowing a deeper channel for the two-tonne beast to swim out in. Pontoons were now being prepared ahead of the attempt to refloat the mammal.

World-renowned marine biologist and orca researcher Ingrid Visser has also headed south to help with the rescue operation.

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The next opportunity to refloat the 6m-long orca is at 2pm on high tide. A plane has also gone up this morning to search for a pod of orca seen in the area last night. Grover said this was good news for the stricken mammal as it meant its family was close by and was waiting for him to be reunited. He said the orca had survived the night thanks to the efforts of Department of Conservation staff, volunteers and locals.

But there was now no need for further volunteers with plenty of army reinforcements and marine specialists on hand to care of the orca.
The Army had been on had since first light digging a trench to help with the refloat.

Dozens of volunteers including the Department of Conservation and medics from Project Jonah tended to the stricken mammal yesterday, wrapping it in damp cloth and keeping it as comfortable as possible between tides. 

A post on the Project Jonah Facebook page last night said a veterinary nurse and Project Jonah medics were expected to stay with the whale through the night.

Project Jonah said volunteers had worked tirelessly through the night keeping the stranded orca cool, calm and comfortable.

The army was now joining the rescue effort digging a channel in the shallows to help the whale swim to deeper water during the next high tide. Whale-Rescue.org today said the Department of Conservation had requested Visser and her specialist team to help with the rescue of the stranded sub-adult male orca.

It said the team had experience in several previous Orca and were hopeful of a good outcome.

Thanks to fantastic efforts from marine mammal medics overnight the Orca had remained calm and rested. Attempts to refloat the stranded whale on the high tide were twice unsuccessful yesterday.

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For those who followed the story of the 400+ whales stranded on Farewell Spit at the top of the South Island, a wonderful short documentary has now been produced that recalls the emotions of that day - Farewell  

Lindsay Barron

Lindsay Barron • Nov 13, 2017