New Zealand rescuers use buckets and towels in race to save stranded dolphins

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Rescuers in New Zealand saved seven dolphins by using buckets of water and wrapping the animals in towels before releasing them back into the ocean on Friday, officials from the department of conservation said.

A total of nine dolphins were stranded at Whakanewha Bay on Waiheke Island, off the city of Auckland. The shoal included at least one calf, according to the Project Jonah, a collective that specialises in the rescue of stranded whales and dolphins.

Volunteers used towels to keep the dolphins hydrated as they waited for a tide to rise sufficiently to help the animals float back.

Emma Kearney, the department’s Auckland inner islands operations manager, said the dolphins had been successfully refloated by 4.40pm, “and had left the bay and were last seen heading out to deeper water”, reported New Zealand Herald.

Two of the dolphins that had washed ashore died, officials said, adding that they were taken to Massey University for necropsy.

“This was a huge combined effort from our medics, Department of Conservation staff, Iwi and members of the public,” Project Jonah said in a post on Facebook, referring to participants from a regional tribal group.

The the department of conservation said it had deployed staff at the scene since noon, and its officials were working with Project Jonah, Ngāti Paoa and members of the Waiheke community in an effort to make the dolphins comfortable.

The group explained that the rising tide aided the rescuers, who used it to refloat seven of nine stranded dolphins.

Waiheke island, which has a population of about 10,000 people is around 40 minutes away by ferry from Auckland.

The southwestern Pacific nation has the world’s highest stranding rate for dolphins and whales.

Though hundreds of the mammals get stranded on its shores each year, authorities have not been able to decode the reason behind it.

Additional reporting by agencies