Friday, 23 June, 2017

After 300 Beached Whales Died, Rescuers Raced To Save Hundreds More

Michele Estrada | 16 February, 2017, 01:16

But most of the whales from that pod died.

As a result, the Department of Conservation closed the beach, saying in a statement, "The area is now closed to the public because of the risk from whales exploding".

In recent days volunteers have formed human chains in the water to try to stop the creatures from beaching themselves again.

"This morning, we'll be getting people down there basically poking holes in them, letting the gas out of them".

Around 400 whales died after one of the largest ever strandings in the country's history.

In the aftermath of rescue efforts, some successful, the beach was littered with hundreds of ticking time bombs in the form of whale carcasses, as reported by Reuters. "They've been singing songs to them, giving them specific names, treating them as kindred spirits".

Pilot whales are not listed as endangered, but little is known about their population in New Zealand waters.

Christophers said everyone is hoping the strandings are finally over, although he said it's possible some of the whales will return to the beach and strand themselves again. In 1985, about 450 whales stranded in Auckland.

No one knows exactly why mass beachings occur, but scientists speculate that some cetaceans' means of communication, echolocation, may not work as well near land.

The shallow, sweeping spit is believed to interfere with the whales' navigation systems and is a regular scene of mass strandings.

Volunteers managed to refloat the surviving whales from that stranding on Saturday, only to hear of a second mass stranding hours later.

Now that experts have said it's unlikely that a large, nearby pod will follow suit, the DOC is tasked with disposing of the 240 or so carcasses that remain.

In 2015, 337 dead whales were discovered off the coast of Patagonia in southern Chile - the largest whale stranding of baleen whales to date.

Authorities have set about moving hundreds of whale carcases into the sand dunes in a part of Farewell Spit not open to the public where they buried them with a digger.

Lamason said the bodies might be left to decompose on the remote beach after being ring-fenced to prevent them floating away.

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