August 21, 2010

Dozens Of Whales Die On New Zealand Beach

Nearly 60 pilot whales have died after becoming stranded on a beach in northern New Zealand, conservation authorities reported Friday.

There were 73 total whales discovered on the beach mid-morning and the Department of Conservation's Carolyn Smith said the whales most likely beached overnight, which is why so many died before rescue operations were launched.

Of the 73 pilot whales, 15 have survived, but are reported to be in "poor condition." Volunteers are making another attempt to rescue the survivors, after previous attempts to re-float them failed.

The area around Kaitaia Beach, in northern New Zealand was experiencing heavy rain and wind which Smith said helped the surviving whales by ensuring they did not dry out. But the conditions made it difficult for rescuers to launch an attempt to save the mammals.

Each whale weighs nearly 1.5 tons, and at least 5 people are needed to work with each whale.

Rescuers plan to move the surviving whales by transporter about a mile to a different bay and re-float them there, where conditions are better.

Whale beaching is not uncommon along the coast of New Zealand and more than 100 pilot whales died in a stranding in the South Island last year.

Over the past 160 years, more than 5,000 whales and dolphins have been recorded stranded around the New Zealand coast. It is a more common occurrence during the summer, when whales pass by on their migration to and from Antarctic waters. Experts do not know what causes the animals to strand.


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