One of the largest strandings in the last decades occurred in New Zealand. Thursday night, the Department of Conservation (DOC) found 416 pilot whales stranded at Farewell Spit in Golden Bay and more than 70 percent of them died only a few hours later.
When the morning came, the DOC officials teamed up with many volunteers in an attempt to save the surviving whales. Then, a special decree was issued that urged the citizens to drop their activities and gather at the beach to try and save the whales. They were also asked to bring wet buckets, sheets, and towels to keep them cool and wet.
Andrew Lamasa, one of the DOC officials, declared that this particular stranding was one of the largest to have occurred during the last years. This area often causes such events due to the shallow bay that prevents whales from swimming out once they entered it.
Although thousands of volunteers worked together to save the remaining whales and successfully refloated them when high tide came, 90 of them became stranded again at low tide. Also, 50 remained stuck in shallow waters near those who were restranded.
Lamasa explained that this was often encountered with whales, since they were social animals that do not desert their kind. Thus, regardless of the attempts of the volunteers to guide them back to sea, they would leave only if one of their kind takes the decision to head towards the deep sea. Otherwise, they would stay close to those on the beach.
The officials warn that whale rescuing is not for the faint-hearted. The process is pretty emotionally wrecking, therefore only those who feel strong enough either emotionally and physically to drag whales back into the water are advised to join the volunteers.
This stranding at Farewell Spit is the third largest that occurred in New Zealand. The biggest occurred in 1918, when 1,000 whales got stranded on the Chatham Island, and the second occurred in 1985 and involved 450 whales stranded near the coast of Auckland, at Great Barrier Island.
New Zealand has one of the highest stranding rates in the world, with about 300 whales and dolphins which end up on their beaches every year. Since 1840, more than 5,000 whales and dolphins have been stranded on the New Zealand beaches.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons