100 stranded whales rescued from NZ beach

According to New Zealand-based marine-focused charity Project Jonah, the country has one of the highest rates of strandings in the world, and pilot whales are the most likely to fall victim to the epidemic.

Volunteers are frantically trying to refloat the surviving whales but some are now swimming in the wrong direction and heading back into the bay, Department of Conservation spokesman Andrew Lamason told Radio New Zealand.

Numerous whales died overnight at Farewell Spit at the top of the South Island, but those that survived are now swimming in the bay off the beach.

According to reports, part of the reason the rescue attempt was so hard was because they whales "are social animals and want to remain close to their pod, even if majority are now dead".

Volunteer Jonathan Radbeard Jones- Volunteer says, "It's really eerie being up here you know and seeing so much death, but then it's also so positive seeing how much of the community has actually come out here to lend a hand and try and really help the environment".

The department was notified last night of whales "milling around" the area, and warn those just coming to have a look to stay away. Majority died but volunteers tried yesterday to help in the rescue of 100 survivors. Other reasons why whales beach themselves could be to chase prey too close to the shore or to protect a sick member of the group or to escape a predator.

He said 20 whales had been humanely killed by conservation workers as they were in a poor condition.

One more recent theory as to why some mass strandings happen, put forward by NASA, is that solar storms might trigger strandings by interfering with terrestrial magnetic fields that whales depend on for navigation.

Today's stranding at Farewell Spit makes it the third largest whale stranding in New Zealand's recorded history. Recently, Care2′s Alicia Graef brought us the tragic story of a Cuvier's beaked whale that continually tried to beach itself and eventually died. Also the daunting task of disposing the dead whales' bodies has to be seen to. DOC staff and around 500 volunteers immediately set about keeping the surviving whales as healthy as possible until the next high tide, the following day.

1918 and 450 in Auckland in 1985. "They share similar features such as gently sloping beaches, and the coastal configuration as a whole acts as a whale trap". Rescuers are racing to save hundreds of lives after the country's largest recorded mass whale stranding occurred.

Yet there is still a chance that a few of the 100 which had been refloated may return to strand themselves on the beach, according to BBC.

  • Rogelio Becker