Whale of a rescue
The three adult pilot whales stranded on the beach and did not survive. However, for the past week the smaller, younger whales have been swimming freely in a lagoon, which is surrounded by reef off the main Vava'u island.
Today, following many attempts to help the animals back to the open ocean, the efforts succeeded. The successful rescue was the result of cooperative work between the Tongan Government Fisheries and Tourism Ministries, the Police Department, local people and whale watching operators.
"This is a triumph for the resourcefulness, patience and persistence of all those involved," said Filipe Tonga, IFAW's representative in Tonga, who assisted with the rescue efforts. "IFAW congratulates the Fisheries Ministry, Tourism Ministry and the Police Department for their leading role in the return of these animals to the sea. We also thank the local community and the commercial whale watch operators who leant their time and boats to help in the rescue efforts. Without their help, the future for these whales would not have been so bright."
The whales were finally led back to open water today after one whale had
stranded in shallow water in the lagoon. The stranded whale was eased into a
sling and taken by boat to the outside of the lagoon into the deeper open
waters. Pilot whales are very social animals and the two other whales
followed to freedom.