Over 50 Whales Die After Being Washed Up On New Zealand Beach

Rescue volunteers continue efforts to save surviving pilot whales, which are described as being in ‘fairly poor condition’

Rescuers try to save surviving whales after mass stranding in New Zealand

Fifty-eight pilot whales have died after they were washed up on to an isolated beach in northern New Zealand. Rescue volunteers’ initial efforts to refloat 15 others that survived failed earlier today.

A fresh attempt to save the 15 beached mammals – which weigh up to 1,500kg (3,300lb) each – will be made early on Saturday, using machinery including a crane and transporter, said Department of Conservation acting area manager Mike Davies.

The 73 pilot whales were probably stranded during the night on remote Karikari Beach which is why so many died before they were discovered, said the department’s community relations manager, Carolyn Smith.

New Zealand frequently sees several mass whale strandings around its coastline, mainly each summer as whales pass by on their migration to and from Antarctic waters. Scientists have not been able to determine why whales become stranded.

A pod of 101 pilot whales were stranded on the same beach in 2007.

Kimberly Muncaster, chief executive of the Project Jonah whale aid group, said the 15 surviving whales were in “fairly poor condition”.

About 40 people tried to refloat them at high tide on Friday. Among those helping the department were trained volunteers from the Far North Whale Rescue group.

Davies said the 15 whales would not need to be sedated for Saturday’s second rescue attempt using the heavy equipment as they were already in quite a docile state.

“The plan at first light will be to remove the … whales across about 1km of road by transporter and refloat them in (nearby) Matai Bay,” he said, where sea conditions would be easier and the bay more sheltered.

New Zealand has one of the world’s highest rates of whale strandings, according to the Department of Conservation. Since 1840, more than 5,000 strandings of whales and dolphins have been recorded around its coast.

Friday 20 August 2010 11.39 BST

Source: The Guardian

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