In pics: 400 whales wash ashore on New Zealand beach, most die despite help | world-news | Hindustan Times
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In pics: 400 whales wash ashore on New Zealand beach, most die despite help

world Updated: Feb 10, 2017 11:02 IST
AP
Whale beaching

Whales were stranded at Farewell Spit near Nelson, New Zealand. (AP Photo)

New Zealand volunteers formed a human chain in the water at a remote beach on Friday as they tried to save about 100 whales after more than 400 of the creatures beached themselves in one of the worst whale strandings in the nation’s history.

About three-quarters of the pilot whales were already dead when they were found Friday morning at Farewell Spit at the tip of the South Island. It’s an area that seems to confuse whales and has been the site of previous mass strandings.

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Department of Conservation community ranger Kath Inwood said about 300 volunteers had joined conservation workers on the beach. She said they had refloated the whales at high tide and had formed the chain to try and prevent them from swimming back ashore.

People stand between some of the hundreds of stranded pilot whales that died after one of the country's largest recorded mass whale strandings, in Golden Bay, at the top of New Zealand's south island. (Reuters Photo)

“It can be really quite distressing seeing so many dead whales,” Inwood said. “People need to be resilient and handle that and then get on with what needs to be done.”

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of whale strandings in the world. (Reuters Photo)

She said volunteers had earlier tried to keep the surviving whales damp and cool by placing blankets over them and dousing them with buckets of water as they waited for the tide to rise.

The high tide allowed volunteers their one shot of the day to help the whales. Should the whales become stranded again, the volunteers would have to wait until the next daylight high tide on Saturday.

People tend to pilot whales, which beached themselves overnight, at Farewell Spit in the Golden Bay region. (AFP Photo)

Inwood said that whale strandings occur most years at Farewell Spit, but that the scale of this stranding had come as a shock. She said farmers and other locals were helping out and that people were also arriving from other parts of the country.

Volunteers try to keep alive some of the hundreds of stranded pilot whales after one of the country's largest recorded mass whale strandings, in Golden Bay. (Reuters Photo)

Most of the whales stranded on the beach in Golden Bay died. (Reuters Photo)

There are different theories as to why whales strand themselves, from them chasing prey too far inshore to them trying to protect a sick member of the group.

Farewell Spit is sometimes described as a whale trap. It has a long protruding coastline and gently sloping beaches that seem to make it difficult for whales to navigate away from once they get close.

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Authorities were asking for fit and competent volunteers to travel to the beach and help with the rescue efforts. Getting there from the nearest provincial airport in Nelson involves a three-hour drive followed by a 15-minute hike.

Stranded pilot whales are seen on the beach in Golden Bay. (Reuters Photo)

Conservation workers said many of the surviving whales were likely to be in bad shape given the number of deaths, and their condition would deteriorate.

Volunteer rescue group Project Jonah said a total of 416 whales had stranded and 75 percent were dead when they were discovered. The Department of Conservation put the number of dead whales at about 250 to 300.

Volunteers try to keep alive some of the hundreds of stranded pilot whales. (Reuters Photo)

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of whale strandings in the world, and Friday’s event is the nation’s third-biggest recorded stranding.

People look at stranded pilot whales seen on the beach in Golden Bay, New Zealand. (Reuters Photo)

The largest was in 1918, when about 1,000 pilot whales came ashore on the Chatham Islands. In 1985 about 450 whales stranded in Auckland.

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