New Zealand tries to rescues stranded pilot whales, nine died

Pilot whales stranded on the beach in Chatham Islands, New Zealand photo: Reuters/Jemma Welch /Department of Conservation NZ
Pilot whales stranded on the beach in Chatham Islands in November, New Zealand photo: Reuters/Jemma Welch /Department of Conservation NZ

Rescuers are trying to save dozens of pilot whales who stranded on a beach in New Zealand, wildlife officials said. The Department of Conservation (DOC) said the pod of 49 long-finned pilot whales was found early Monday at Farewell Spit.

By mid-afternoon, nine of the whales had died, and more than 60 people were working to keep the survivors alive to try to refloat them at high tide, the DOC said.

“Marine mammal medics will assist with refloating the whales and caring for them on the beach, keeping them cool and wet until they can be refloated,” a DOC spokeswoman said.

Farewell Spit is a narrow sand point at the northern end of the Golden Bay on South Island, the biggest of the two major islands of New Zealand. In the past fifteen years, at least ten pilot whale strandings have happened there. The most recent was in February 2017, when almost 700 of the marine mammals beached, resulting in 250 deaths.

Scientists don’t know why the beach is so deadly; one theory is that the point creates a shallow seabed in the bay that interferes with the whales’ sonar navigation systems.

In November, about 100 pilot whales died in a mass stranding on New Zealand’s remote Chatham Islands.

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