Whale of a rescue

Friday, 18 March, 2005
Vava'u, Kingdom of Tonga
A traumatic week for three young pilot whales trapped in a lagoon in Tonga has ended happily, thanks to the combined efforts of the Tongan Government, the local community and whale watching operators.
On 12 March, three young pilot whales became trapped in a lagoon on the coast of Vava'u in the Kingdom of Tonga. It is believed that they had followed three adult whales into a lagoon, seeking shelter following an attack by sharks.

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.

Post a comment

Press Contact

Erica Martin (IFAW, Asia Pacific)
Contact phone:
+61 2 9288 4922 or +0402 183 113


Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation