WELLINGTON (REUTERS) – Volunteers in New Zealand saved seven of nine stranded dolphins on Friday (Aug 12), carrying buckets of water and wrapping the animals in towels to keep them hydrated until the tide on a remote beach rose sufficiently to float them back to sea.

There was at least one calf among the nine animals stranded at Whakanewha Bay on Waiheke Island, off the city of Auckland, said Project Jonah, a group that specialises in the rescue of stranded whales and dolphins.  

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

The rising tide allowed rescuers to refloat seven dolphins and they had returned to sea, the group added. Two of the animals had died earlier.

Conservation officials initially gave an incorrect figure of 10 dolphins.

The small island of Waiheke, home to about 10,000 people, is roughly 40 minutes by ferry from Auckland. 

New Zealand has the highest stranding rate for dolphins and whales in the world with hundreds of the mammals getting beached on its shores every year.

Just why the animals get trapped on beaches is still a puzzle for marine biologists.