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.

Indigenous Maori elders chanted prayers over the carcasses before bulldozers stripped open a trench above the waterline to bury the mammals, which died despite efforts by more than 200 rescuers.

The rescuers refloated 13 of the beached Saturday after a mass stranding of 58 of them on remote Karikari Beach. Four of the 13 survivors later were euthanized after they beached again, bringing the overall death toll to 49.

The survivors had headed out to sea Saturday afternoon and were monitored to ensure they did not return to the beach, Conservation Department spokeswoman Carolyn Smith said. But within an hour four of them became stranded again, Smith said.

Rescuers spent two hours trying to help them, but as darkness fell officials decided to kill the distressed whales to prevent the nine survivors from being lured back by their distress calls.

The remaining nine were later observed swimming strongly and steadily back out to sea.

The full pod of pilot whales that beached Thursday night on the storm-tossed Karikari Beach were stranded for up to 12 hours before they were discovered - the reason so many died, Smith said.

On Friday, conservation department workers and trained volunteers from the Far North Whale Rescue group struggled unsuccessfully to refloat the survivors, hindered by heavy seas and wind. On Saturday they used a crane and body sling to lift and then transport them half a mile (a kilometer) to Matai Bay, a sheltered location with calmer waters.

A pod of 101 was stranded on the same beach in 2007.

New Zealand has one of the world's highest rates of whale strandings, mainly during their migration to and from .

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 whales become stranded.

Explore further: New bird species confirmed 15 years after first observation

5 /5 (2 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Nine rescued whales beach again in Australia

Mar 25, 2009

All but one of the 10 whales that survived a mass beaching on Australia's west coast were Wednesday believed to have come back ashore and were unlikely to survive, authorities said.

Recommended for you

Scanning robot helps put insect collection online

6 hours ago

A robot capable of scanning a tray of insect specimens in a few minutes will help make the virtual images and tagging information available to the public online, according to South Dakota State University ...

New mushroom discovered on campus is the first since 1985

7 hours ago

Two researchers who recently named the first new species of mushroom from the UC Berkeley campus in more than 30 years are emphasizing the need for continued green and open space on campus, as well as a full-fledged ...

Rare new species of plant: Stachys caroliniana

Nov 21, 2014

The exclusive club of explorers who have discovered a rare new species of life isn't restricted to globetrotters traveling to remote locations like the Amazon rainforests, Madagascar or the woodlands of the ...

User comments : 0

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.