Thursday, 13 December, 2018

51 pilot whales die in mass stranding in New Zealand

Hundreds of whales have died across New Zealand Hundreds of whales have died across New Zealand
Elijah Vega | 03 December, 2018, 14:08

Over the past week, a string of tragedies have unfolded on the beaches of New Zealand. About 75 were already dead and conservation workers chose to euthanize the others due to their poor condition and remote location.

In addition to the strandings at Chatham and Stewart Islands this week, a group of 12 pygmy whales also beached in New Zealand's far north and a sperm whale and a pygmy sperm whale grounded themselves in separate incidents on the North Island. The rest were in poor condition, and hard to access because of the remote location in which they had surfaced. "This is always an bad decision to have to make", he said.

More heartbreak soon followed.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) said it was notified on Thursday evening of about 80 to 90 pilot whales stranded at Hanson Bay, near Owenga.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, 10 pygmy killer whales were found stranded at Ninety Mile Beach on the North Island.

Despite 200 staff and volunteers managing to refloat eight, all but one ended up stranding themselves again by Wednesday.

"When staff arrived at the scene approximately 30 - 40 pilot whales had re-floated themselves and returned to sea, however 51 whales remained", the country's Department of Conservation explained Friday.

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"Large numbers of pilot whales have been stranding for as long as we know", Russell Leaper, a whale researcher at the International Fund for Animal Welfare, told ABC News. Because it was not faring well, officials made a decision to euthanize the lone surviving whale.

As for what caused these strandings, that answer remains elusive, as well.

Fifty pilot whales have been found dead after a mass stranding in the Chatham Islands.

Marine mammal strandings are a relatively common occurrence on New Zealand shores. It could be an escape from predators gone terribly wrong. Noise caused by man-made activities, like surveying for petroleum and gas, could be pushing whales towards beaches.

More than one factor might contribute to a stranding.

At this point in time, it seems that the three mass strandings that occurred in quick succession are simply an unfortunate coincidence. "But there's no evidence at this stage to suggest that they're directly linked".

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