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Community saves beached whales

Published: 9:51AM Sunday December 27, 2009 Source: ONE News/Newstalk ZB

Dozens of conservation workers and Coromandel locals have spent the day trying to save a pod of more than 60 whales.
The whales came ashore just north of the Coromandel township on Colville Beach.

It was one community coming to the rescue of another when the pilot whales stranded themselves just after 5am on Sunday morning.

"Sixty-three pilot whales have stranded and we have 20 dead ones already and so it looks quite good, we've got 43 live ones and hopefully we can get them back in the water now," Steve Bolten from the Departement of Conservation says.

The whales were stranded for hours and the community came together with each group being assigned an individual whale. They all took the job personally and all the whales were given names such as Blue Wiggle, Nemo and Manu.

"We've been here probably three and a half, four hours and just been listening to instructions and trying to keep them as wet as possible and comfortable," rescuer Deanna Pandy says.

Pandy and five of her family members who are holidaying at the local campsite came down to help the whales in distress. Unfortunately not all of them could be saved with 20 dying shortly after becoming stranded.

DOC is unsure at this stage why the whales beached.

"One of them could've been sick their sonar could've got mixed up in a shallow harbour and they can't find their way back out again we don't know until we autopsy one of the dead ones," says Bolten.

The incoming tide brought hope as the remaining pod were guided up the channel and successfully re-floated. The longer they stay in the water the better chance they have.

DOC Community Relations programme manager Katrina Knill says they are continuing to monitor them. There is concern that the whales will re-beach themselves on Sunday night.

The dead whales will be brought down to the Colville Beach and buried after they have been blessed by local iwi.