By Lucy Craymer
WELLINGTON (Reuters) -Volunteers in New Zealand saved seven of nine stranded dolphins on Friday, 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 world's highest stranding rate of dolphins and whales, with hundreds of the mammals beached on its shores each year. But the reason why they get trapped on beaches remains a puzzle.
(Reporting by Lucy Craymer; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)