Efforts Resume to Save Surviving Whales On Farewell Spit

Press Release – Project Jonah

Of the 77 live long-finned pilot whales stranded on Farewell Spit in Golden Bay last night, 39 are still alive at first light this morning. A pod of 99 whales stranded around midday yesterday, with 22 dying during the afternoon.January 24, 2012

Efforts Resume to Save Surviving Whales On Farewell Spit

Of the 77 live long-finned pilot whales stranded on Farewell Spit in Golden Bay last night, 39 are still alive at first light this morning (subs: 24 January 2012).

A pod of 99 whales stranded around midday yesterday, with 22 dying during the afternoon.

A further 12 were found dead on the beach this morning, and 26 remain unaccounted for, meaning they either swam out during the night or have been washed away.

“The remaining live whales scattered a bit overnight, but they are still in the same general location,” says Kimberly Muncaster, Project Jonah CEO.

“We will focus our rescue efforts on them this morning, and the Department of Conservation will be putting a plane in the air as soon as possible to check what happened to the missing whales.”

Lack of light and a quickly moving tide meant rescuers had to abandon the whales last night, hoping some would refloat themselves on the high tide and others would survive until morning without volunteers there to keep them alive.

“It has been an anxious wait,” says Kimberly Muncaster, Project Jonah CEO.

“Project Jonah marine mammal medics arrived throughout the day yesterday from as far away as Invercargill, Auckland and Australia. All they could do overnight was camp out and wait, hoping the morning would bring a pleasant surprise rather than further tragedy.”

Ms Muncaster says more volunteers will be needed this morning to keep the surviving whales stable until they can be refloated on the high tide at 11.00 am.

“It’s all hands on deck,” she says.

“Project Jonah has a second wave of medics arriving from all around New Zealand, but anyone can help, provided they come prepared.”

Volunteers are asked to check out the Project Jonah website at www.projectjonah.org.nz for a list of items they will need to bring, but essential items include food, water, sunscreen and appropriate clothing.

Ms Muncaster says her organization is working closely with the Department of Conservation to assist in the operation.

“DOC manages the stranding, but Project Jonah marine mammal medics have been trained in stranding response and have the knowledge and equipment necessary for a potentially long exercise in difficult conditions,” she says.

“We face an enormous task this morning but can only do our best to get the 39 surviving whales back into the water safely.”

Project Jonah has been actively saving stranded whales for more than 25 years. Through dedicated training and education programmes, Project Jonah provides an emergency service for stranded whales and dolphins in New Zealand. It relies solely on volunteers and donations to carry out its work.

To make a donation to Project Jonah or to learn more about becoming a Marine Mammal Medic go to www.projectjonah.org.nz

ENDS

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