56 pilot whales die after stranding on NZ beach

September 23, 2010
In this photo released by the New Zealand Department of Conservation, a dead whale lies in the sand at Spirits Bay in the North Island of New Zealand, Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2010. At least 40 out of 80 pilot whales that stranded themselves on the remote northern New Zealand beach have died, and more whales are joining them on land. (AP Photo/New Zealand Department of Conservation)

(AP) -- Only 24 of several dozen pilot whales stranded on a remote northern New Zealand beach survived a stormy first night ashore despite rescuers' desperate efforts to save them, officials said Thursday.

Large waves and strong winds lashed Spirits Bay as rescuers struggled to move survivors above the tide-line. It was the second mass beaching in the region in a month.

"As of this morning, there have been 24 live animals moved out of the tide up onto the beach out of harms' way," Department of Conservation spokeswoman Caroline Smith said. "The weather is terrible up there. We have 20 knot winds and 1.5 to 2 meter (5 to 7 foot) swells, so it is not possible to refloat them at Spirits Bay."

The 80 animals were spread out over a three-mile (five-kilometer) stretch, Smith said. Officials were planning to use big nets to lift the creatures onto the back of trucks, and move them to more sheltered Rarawa Beach, about an hour south, where they will be refloated.

Rescuers spent Wednesday night on the beach keeping the whales cool and damp. Teacher Te Aroha Wihapi took students there to help cover the whales with wet sheets and tarps.

"It was quite traumatic for some of the younger ones," Wihapi told the New Zealand Herald. "Two of them wanted to hug one of the whales because they saw its eye was weeping."

Department of Conservation area manager Jonathan Maxwell said at least 25 of the animals were already dead when officials first arrived at Spirits Bay on Wednesday, and another 15 had died by nightfall. Another 50 were spotted just offshore, some of which later beached themselves. Officials euthanized some of the weakest and most stressed animals.

"Pilot whales have very strong social bonds and they try to help each other, so more keep getting stuck," said Mark Simpson of protection charity Project Jonah.

In mid-August at nearby Karikari Beach, 58 pilot whales stranded. Despite hundreds of helpers fighting to save them, just nine were eventually floated off the beach and returned to sea.

A pod of 101 stranded on the same in 2007.

New Zealand has one of the world's highest rates of whale strandings, mainly during their migrations to and from Antarctic waters, one of which begins in September.

Since 1840, the Department of Conservation has recorded more than 5,000 strandings of whales and dolphins around the New Zealand coast. Scientists have not been able to determine why become stranded.

Explore further: More than 20 whales die in mass beaching in New Zealand


Related Stories

15 whales die beached in NZ, 33 coaxed to sea

January 24, 2010

(AP) -- Rescuers in New Zealand managed to coax 33 beached whales back out into deep waters Sunday, but another 15 of the pod died, a conservation official said.

NZ rescuers save 9 whales stranded on beach

August 22, 2010

(AP) -- Crews with bulldozers buried 49 pilot whales in sand dunes on an isolated northern New Zealand beach Sunday after rescuers managed to save only nine from a group that was stranded on the beach for two days.

80 pilot whales stranded on New Zealand beach

September 22, 2010

(AP) -- At least 40 out of 80 pilot whales that stranded themselves on a remote northern New Zealand beach have died, and more whales are joining them on land, officials said Wednesday.

Recommended for you

Study suggests fish can experience 'emotional fever'

November 25, 2015

(Phys.org)—A small team of researchers from the U.K. and Spain has found via lab study that at least one type of fish is capable of experiencing 'emotional fever,' which suggests it may qualify as a sentient being. In their ...

New gene map reveals cancer's Achilles heel

November 25, 2015

Scientists have mapped out the genes that keep our cells alive, creating a long-awaited foothold for understanding how our genome works and which genes are crucial in disease like cancer.

How cells in the developing ear 'practice' hearing

November 25, 2015

Before the fluid of the middle ear drains and sound waves penetrate for the first time, the inner ear cells of newborn rodents practice for their big debut. Researchers at Johns Hopkins report they have figured out the molecular ...

How cells 'climb' to build fruit fly tracheas

November 25, 2015

Fruit fly windpipes are much more like human blood vessels than the entryway to human lungs. To create that intricate network, fly embryonic cells must sprout "fingers" and crawl into place. Now researchers at The Johns Hopkins ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Sep 23, 2010
They need to set up blockades (rigid nets or some sort of underwater acoustic device) which will keep this tragedy from happening again.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.