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Moko the dolphin was too busy frolicking with her human company to save a stranded whale which died on an East Coast beach on Monday.
The adult male pygmy sperm whale initially stranded on Mahia beach near the golf club.
Moko led a group of stranded whales back out to sea late last year, but Department of Conservation Wairoa field centre supervisor Malcolm Smith said Moko was "pretty involved" with its legion of human fans and suggested the whale had "snuck in the back".
A group of volunteers, including Gisborne police officers Greg Lexmond and Russell Holmes, managed to refloat the five-metre-long, 800kg whale, but it stranded again outside the Mahia campground.
"It had been thrashing around in the shallows for some time ... you could see it was exhausted," Mr Holmes told the Gisborne Herald.
The whale was dead when Mr Smith arrived.
He said the stranding was unusual, as mainly female whales strand along that area.
"What we think happens is that Hawke's Bay is a breeding and calving area for pygmy sperm whales.
"The calves feed in the bay where it's quite shallow and there's a good food supply for mother and calf."
The dead whale was buried on site.