What was first thought to be a baby orca found stranded in the surf at Peka Peka beach turned out to be one of the world’s rarest and smallest dolphins.
Toni Everett was walking her dogs when she saw what she thought was a baby orca lying listless on the beach. The find proved to be an endangered Hector’s dolphin.
“The poor little thing was just lying there, flapping its tail with its heart beating like crazy.”
She summoned nearby relatives and they battled for 45 minutes to refloat the dolphin, but it was too weak to swim against the waves.
Conservation Department programme manager Wayne Boness, freshwater and marine officer Nadine Gibbs arrived and with members of the public tried several times to help the dolphin back out to sea.
Ms Gibbs said it appeared the dolphin had been separated from its mother and became weak from not feeding for a few days.
The rare dolphin was placed in a bin of seawater to see if it might recover some strength but it continued to decline. It was taken to the Raumati Vet Centre, where it was put down.
Endangered Hector’s dolphins are susceptible to being caught in fishing set nets, where they can asphyxiate and die. They live only around New Zealand and are distinct because of their small size and round dorsal fin.
The department encourages people to report any dolphins they see, live or dead.