December 28, 2009

125 Whales Die In New Zealand, 43 Saved

Vacationers and conservation workers were able to coax 43 pilot whales back into the ocean after getting stranded on the beach over the weekend. Unfortunately, over 125 whales didn't survive.

105 pilot whales died on Saturday at Farewell Spit in a mass beaching, while 21 whales died on Sunday at a beach on the east coast of the North Island.

Rescuers monitored the survivors as they swam away, and by Monday morning they were reported well out to sea.

Regional conservation spokeswoman Lyn Williams said, "Last they were seen they were swimming healthily out to the ocean."

One of the cows even gave birth to a calf almost immediately after being refloated, she said.

The whales stranded on Farewell Spit could not be saved. Conservation department official Hans Stoffregen said, "They were in bad shape. By the time we got there two-thirds of them had already died. We had to euthanize the rest."

Both beaches have had a history of whale strandings.

Hundreds of volunteers helped out by covering the whales with sheets to keep them wet throughout the day.

Stoffregen said, "It has been quite hot and they were very distressed. You could see the pain and suffering in their eyes."

Because the site is part of a natural reserve, the 105 whale carcasses were left to decompose where they stranded, he added.