ByLauren Lewis –
November 26, 2018
More than 150 pilot whales were found either dead or dying in numerous separate incidents over the weekend in New Zealand.
A staggering 145 pilot whales from two pods were discovered stranded on a beach in Stewart Island late Saturday evening.
According to the Department of Conservation (DOC), half of the whales had already died by the time they were found, and the remaining ones tragically had to be euthanized.
“Sadly, the likelihood of being able to successfully re-float the remaining whales was extremely low. The remote location, lack of nearby personnel, and the whales’ deteriorating condition meant the most humane thing to do was to euthanize,” DOC Rakiura Operations Manager Ren Leppens said in a statement. “However, it’s always a heart-breaking decision to make.”
The DOC reportedly responds to an average of 85 marine mammal strandings per year, but they are mostly of single animals, not pods.
Exactly why whales and dolphins strand is not fully known, but factors can include: sickness, navigational error, geographical features, a rapidly falling tide, being chased by a predator, or extreme weather. More than one factor may contribute to a stranding.
A number of strandings occurred on New Zealand shores over the weekend, however these events are unlikely to be related.
“Of the 12 pygmy killer whales which stranded just over 24 hours ago, eight are alive and are being moved from Ninety Mile Beach on the west coast to Rarawa Beach on the east coast,” Project Jonah New Zealand shared on its Facebook page yesterday, explaining that there was a stream in which the whales could survive in overnight.
As per the nonprofit, medics have been mobilized and the re-floating phase of the rescue is scheduled to begin on Tuesday at 6:30am.
Members are needed to assist with this crucial phase of the rescue.
Volunteers should report to the Rarawa Campground upon arrival on Tuesday morning. Those with wetsuits will help with the release of the pygmy killer whales into the water. Volunteers without wetsuits can help care for whales on the beach before the re-float attempt takes place.
All volunteers should bring warm clothing, a sunhat and sunblock and plenty of food and water.
Tragically, the DOC also reported that a sperm whale also beached in Doubtful Bay on Karikari Peninsula in Northland. The male whale, which is thought to have beached around 3:00pm on Friday, sadly died overnight on Saturday. A dead female pygmy sperm whale also washed up at Ohiwa over the weekend.
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