Friday, 10 February 2017
Sadly, hundreds of whales have died overnight on a New Zealand beach after a mass stranding thought to be the largest in decades. The Department of Conservation (DOC) discovered 416 pilot whales had beached themselves at Farewell Spit in Golden Bay at the top of the South Island, with more than 70% perishing by the time dawn broke on Friday. DOC staff and dozens of volunteers were on hand this morning trying to save the remaining 100 whales.
Peter Wiles, who was one of the first volunteers to reach Farewell Spit, said “It is one of the saddest things I have seen, that many sentient creatures just wasted on the beach.”
Andrew Lamason, a team leader for the DOC Takaka area, said the stranding was the largest in living memory, and although he had “no clue” why the whales had beached themselves this time, Golden Bay was conducive to strandings because of its shallow bay, which made it difficult for whales to swim out once they’d entered.
At high tide, at 10.30am, the 100 remaining whales were successfully refloated, but early in the afternoon at low tide 90 of them re-beached themselves. DOC staff and up to 500 volunteers are now focused on keeping the surviving whales as healthy as possible until the next high tide at lunchtime tomorrow.
The stranding at Farewell Spit makes it the third largest whale stranding in New Zealand’s recorded history.
In 1918, 1,000 whales beached themselves on the Chatham Islands, and in 1985 450 stranded at Great Barrier Island off the coast of Auckland. New Zealand has one of the highest rates of whale strandings in the world, and since 1840, more than 5,000 whales and dolphins have beached themselves on New Zealand shores according to DOC records.
Posted by John Edwards at 14:03
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