More than 400 pilot whales stranded off the coast of New Zealand, the case is already considered one of the largest of its kind in the country’s history. Hundreds of whales have died overnight, and relief workers are working desperately to save a few dozen who are still struggling for life.
According to the New Zealand, Department of Conversation (DOC), 416 pilot whales ran aground at Farewell Spit in the Golden Bay region, north of South Island, one of the country’s main islands. When Department of Conversation (DOC) arrived at the site, between 250 and 300 whales had already died. By dawn this morning, more than 70 percent of them were dead. The Department of Conversation (DOC) team and dozens of volunteers are trying to save the remaining 80 or 90 whales.
For those who try to help, the scenario must be terrible. Images show the beach full of whale corpses. Those still alive are surrounded by rescue crews who desperately try to keep them cold, wet and calm. “It’s one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen, this much of sensitive creatures thrown on the beach, ” volunteer Peter Wiles told the Guardian. Department of Conversation (DOC) asked the local community to help, offering towels, buckets, and sheets. Some people have been working in cold, humid conditions for more than nine hours straight. The response was incredible, and DOC says no more volunteers are needed at the moment.
The next opportunity to save the remaining whales is scheduled for tomorrow (Saturday) when the tide goes up. Unfortunately, most of the 100 whales that floated back at high tide (at 10:30 local time) returned and ran aground again. As they are social mammals, they were probably trying to stay close to their groups – most of whom are dead on the beach.
“We are trying to take the whales out to sea and guide them, but they do not follow directions, they go where they want,” the Department of Conversation (DOC) team leader told the Guardian. “Unless they have some leaders who decide their way at sea, the remaining whales will try to keep their group on the beach.”
New Zealand has one of the highest whaling rates in the world; About 300 whales and dolphins get stuck on the country’s beaches every year. Golden Bay is a particularly prone place to beach it due to its shallow topography, which makes it difficult for whales to swim after they enter the beach.
Also, pilot whales are known to be stranded. Entire groups of this species get stuck on the beach because of their strong social ties. They may run aground when an elderly, sick or injured whale heads towards the beach. When this happens, the group swims to help her.
The case may also have something to do with the committed ability of pilot whales to use their echolocation in shallow, gently sloping waters. These whales, which are the largest of the oceanic dolphins, prefer steep areas such as continental shelf edges. Farewell Spit, with its shallow water, is a trap for them.
The case is now considered the third largest ever recorded in New Zealand’s history. In 1980, more than 1,000 whales stranded on the Chatham Islands, and in 1985, 450 were trapped on Great Barrier Island in Auckland. Two years ago, 200 whales died at Farewell Spit after running aground.
Source: Department of Conversation (DOC)
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