Sea Rangers and Traditional Owners rescue a stranded False Killer Whale at Groote Eylandt

A false killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens) has been stranded and rescued in Top End waters for the first time.

Anindilyakwa Land & Sea Rangers, Traditional Owners and local residents spent 12 hours rescuing the false killer whale after it was stranded on a shallow sandbar inside Umbakumba lagoon at Groote Eylandt.

“The alarm was raised by some local Umbakumba residents who discovered the unusual visitor in distress and thrashing about while they were spear fishing,” Anindilyakwa Land & Sea Rangers Manager Adrian Hogg said today.

“Together with East Arnhem Shire staff, Traditional Owners and local volunteers, we kept the false killer whale wet with buckets of water which prevents marine mammals from sunburn and covering it in wet sheets and blankets until we were able to re-float the large dolphin as the tide came in.

“After many long hours and several rescue attempts, it was eventually moved out through the narrow channel by the Sea Rangers using a boat to steer the false killer through the channel and out into the safety of deeper waters in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

“The false killer whale then swam north-east in the open sea much to the delight of some very exhausted rangers, council staff, Traditional Owners and volunteers.

“Thank you to everyone involved who helped rescue the false killer whale last Friday night and throughout Saturday.”

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) senior marine mammal scientist Dr Carol Palmer said last week’s incident was the first time that a false killer whale had been stranded and rescued in Top End waters.

“We are really looking forward to be working with the Anindilyakwa Land and Sea Rangers next year to gather more information about false killer whales and a range of other dolphins that are recorded around Groote Eylandt,” Dr Palmer said.

“Last week’s stranding and rescue of a false killer whale at Umbakumba Lagoon provides us with more evidence that northern Australia and the NT in particular, is an important area for false killer whale populations”.

“Recent satellite tagging that we have undertaken has shown that false killer whales can swim more than 70km per day.

“We documented one sat tagged false killer from Cobourg Marine Park swimming 7500 km over 105 days and never left Australian waters.

“False Killers are a large dolphin ranging from four to six metres in length, live to about 70 years of age, are slow breeders and live in small tight clan groups.

“They are probably the best fishers in the NT as they need to eat around 150kg of fish per day.

“It is unknown why this particular false killer whale became stranded but a likely scenario is that it was part of a group chasing fish and it got caught on a sandbar as the tide went out.”

The public is reminded to call the Marine WildWatch number 1800 453 941 to report dolphin, dugong and sea turtle sightings and strandings / www.wildwatch.nt.gov.au

Last updated: 20 July 2017