56 pilot whales die after stranding on NZ beach

Sep 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: Birds 'weigh' peanuts and choose heavier ones

0 shares

Related Stories

80 pilot whales stranded on New Zealand beach

Sep 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.

NZ rescuers save 9 whales stranded on beach

Aug 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.

Recommended for you

Birds 'weigh' peanuts and choose heavier ones

May 23, 2015

Many animals feed on seeds, acorns or nuts. The common feature of these are that they have shells and there is no direct way to know what's inside. How do the animals know how much and what quality of food ...

Estuaries protect Dungeness crabs from deadly parasites

May 22, 2015

Parasitic worms can pose a serious threat to the Dungeness crab, a commercially important fishery species found along the west coast of North America. The worms are thought to have caused or contributed to ...

An evolutionary heads-up—the brain size advantage

May 22, 2015

A larger brain brings better cognitive performance. And so it seems only logical that a larger brain would offer a higher survival potential. In the course of evolution, large brains should therefore win ...

Our bond with dogs may go back more than 27,000 years

May 21, 2015

Dogs' special relationship to humans may go back 27,000 to 40,000 years, according to genomic analysis of an ancient Taimyr wolf bone reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on May 21. Earlier genome ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Resonance
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.