Whale strands in New Zealand, Australia: 200 stranded


Nearly 200 whales have died in Australia and New Zealand this week in a series of mass plots that have left scientists confused.

A pedestrian alone found 145 pilot whales stranded on a remote beach on New Zealand's Stewart Island on Saturday.

The rescue team found two pods lying on the sand, most of them lifeless. Half are dead, while the rest must be turned off.

Two days later 10 pygmy killer whales stranded on Ninety Mile Beach in NZ. Four died after being euthanized, while the other six were miraculously rescued after workers and volunteers from the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) moved them to a nearby beach and drove them back to the sea.

DOC spokesman Abigail Monteith said the whale swam about 400m offshore yesterday afternoon.

media_cameraRescuers tried to purify pygmy killer whales after they were transported to Rarawa Beach from Ninety Mile Beach on the northern tip of New Zealand's North Island. Image: Conservation Department / AP
media_cameraConservation workers and volunteers managed to repair six stranded whales. Image: Conservation Department / AP

"The DOC would like to thank everyone for their hard work over the past few days in saving this pygmy whale and we hope that the six reflected whales will remain at sea," Monteith said.

In another incident, 27 pilot whales and one humpback were found on a small beach in Victoria National Park yesterday.

It was understood that most of them died, with a handful that currently surviving impossible to survive.

Whales on the coastline are an unclear phenomenon, and one that is still scratched by scientists despite the evolution of scientific marine research.

Pilot whales have historically been the most common species of whale on the beach itself in large numbers.

The largest strand of stranded pilot whales in 1918 with up to 1000 whales was found stranded on the Chatham Islands, 800km east of the South Island of NZ.

DOCs claim the most common explanation for mass whale chips is that their echolocation – the way they communicate – is not very effective when disrupting man-made sonar.

media_camera145 dead whale pilots on a secluded beach on Stewart Island on the southern tip of New Zealand. Image: New Zealand Conservation Department / AFP

This forced them to become a depressed country and affected their ability to find their way back to the sea.

Another theory is far more awesome.

Some studies of marine biology have claimed whales, socially well-known creatures and traveled in pods, tried to help when they heard other people of their kind were in trouble, because it was also their own beach.

Injuries, water pollution, navigation errors and weather changes are also blamed as the reason whales can cover themselves but this tends to be more isolated cases than mass strandings.

DOC said in response to the latest NZ stranded that it was still unclear why the beach whale itself – added that solo strands were common but mass events were rare.

media_cameraThe whale is seen floating between Bastion and Talaburga, near where 27 Pilot whales stranded on the coast in Victoria. Image: Doug Boyle

"The strand of marine mammals is a relatively common occurrence on the coast of New Zealand, with the DOC responding to an average of 85 incidents per year – mostly single animals," said the DOC statement.

"Exactly why whales and dolphins are not fully known but the factors can include disease, navigation errors, geographical features, waves that fall quickly, are chased by predators, or extreme weather. More than one factor can contribute to being stranded.

"A number of repetitions occurred on the coast of New Zealand over the weekend, but this incident could not be related."

One sperm whale was found stranded in Northland, NZ, on weekends, and dwarf sperm whales in Ohiwa, NZ.


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