Almost 30 long-finned pilot whales died in a mass stranding at a New Zealand beach, wildlife rangers said Friday. When the pod of 34 whales was discovered at remote Farewell Spit late Thursday, 29 whales had already died, the Department of Conservation said.
Dave Winterburn, spokesperson for the Department of Conservation, said rangers were providing care for the five survivors but added that “the whales have now been out of the water for some time”.
In the past 15 years, Farewell Spit, a 26-kilometre (16 mile) hook of sand that extends into the sea, has been the scene of more than ten pilot whale strandings. The largest was in February 2017, when almost 700 pilot whales beached, resulting in 250 deaths.
Mass strandings remain a mystery
New Zealand and neighbouring Australia are hotspots for mass whale strandings. Marine biologists don’t know why the strandings happen.
Olaf Meynecke, a whale researcher at Australia’s Griffith University, said pilot whales use sophisticated sonar to find prey and for orientation, so some theories link strandings to changes in electromagnetic fields.
“These changes can be caused by solar storms or earthquakes (seismic activities), but there is also a strong connection between active sonar, for example, naval sonar, and dolphin strandings, including pilot whales,” Meynecke said.
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