Seven of nine stranded dolphins were rescued on Friday in New Zealand. Rescuers carried buckets of water and wrapped the animals in towels to keep them hydrated until the tide rose enough to float them back to sea.
“Nine common dolphins have stranded on Waiheke today. The pod included a number of juveniles. Sadly two have passed away,” marine animal welfare organization Project Jonah said on Facebook.
A few hours later, they were relieved as “the tide has come in”, and they were able to refloat seven dolphins. The animals were stranded at Whakanewha Bay on Waiheke Island, a small island around 40 minutes by ferry from Auckland.
“This was a huge combined effort from our medics, Department of Conservation staff, iwi [Māori tribe] and members of the public,” Project Jonah said. They urged the public to “keep an eye on beaches over the weekend and report any marine mammals in distress.”
New Zealand has the world’s highest number of stranded dolphins and whales, with hundreds of the animals beached on its shores yearly. In March, almost 30 pilot whales died after they stranded at Farewell Spit. Last November, around 100 pilot whales died in a mass stranding on Chatham Islands.
The reason they strand is still a mystery, but since whales use sophisticated sonar to find prey and for orientation, some scientists link the strandings to changes in electromagnetic fields.
“These changes can be caused by solar storms or earthquakes (seismic activities), but there is also a strong connection between active sonar, for example, naval sonar, and dolphin strandings, including pilot whales,” Olaf Meynecke, a whale researcher at Australia’s Griffith University, said.
On Wednesday, a dead sperm whale washed up on Rabbit Island, Project Jonah said, adding that the Department of Conservation thinks the animal died of natural causes. A new study published on Friday in Ecological Indicators said that climate change will cause some areas around New Zealand to become unsuitable for sperm and blue whales. The main reason will be the increase of the temperature of the sea surface.