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Hundreds of whales dead after mass stranding in New Zealand

Hundreds of whales dead after mass stranding in New Zealand

"More than 400 pilot whales stranded overnight in one of the largest recorded mass strandings in New Zealand history".

The Department of Conservation (DOC) discovered 416 pilot whales had beached themselves at Farewell Spit in Golden Bay at the top of the South Island, with more than 70% perishing by the time dawn broke on Friday.

Rescuers have helped 100 whales stay afloat in this morning's high tide but 50 of them have re-stranded and it's predicted it will happen again at low-tide this evening.

Stephen Marsh of British Divers Marine Life Rescue, said: 'They are called pilot whales because they follow a leader, very often the matriarch of the group, but sometimes an animal that is having problems.

A boat on the water and a line of people in the sea had been trying to encourage the whales to swim in the right direction. " Almost 200 pilot whales beached themselves in the area two years ago, and many died".

According to Project Jonah, "strandings are complex events and there are many reasons why dolphins and whales may strand".

There are renewed fears the rescued whales will beach themselves again as they attempt to stay with their stranded fellows in the bay, he added.

There were many theories among the people at Farewell Spit for why the whales stranded.

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Project Jonah spokesperson Daren Grover said a spotter plane would fly over the bay today to check on the position of the refloated whales.

The group has reportedly succeeded in freeing about 100 whales.

New Zealand's largest whale stranding incident occured in 1985.

"There are 240 at the last count stranded whales between Pyponga and Pakawau and they're stranded in clusters of the sand".

There was a successful refloat of whales on Saturday and a pod of 200 were kept at sea, but joy turned to despair with three new strandings about 5pm. The largest one on record was in 1918, when about 1,000 pilot whales came ashore on the Chatham Islands.

Farewell Spit, about 150km west of the tourist town of Nelson, has witnessed at least nine mass beachings in the past decade.

Numerous whales who have already perished in this week's strandings will have to undergo a necropsy, in part because there is a risk of the decaying corpses exploding on the beach.

Its long coastline means the creatures often find it hard to navigate away from, but whales often end up stranded when they chase prey too far inland, try to protect a sick member of their pod or when they are fleeing enemies.


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