Over 40 whales die on New Zealand beach

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

WELLINGTON - More than 40 pilot whales died Wednesday after a pod of about 80 stranded themselves on a New Zealand beach.

Nine were refloated but the department of conservation said it had to euthanise some of the weakest and most stressed.

Officials said the weather at the remote Spirits Bay at the north end of the North Island was too rough to get the rest back into the sea.

The survivors would be loaded onto trucks Thursday and moved by road to another beach in another bid to refloat them, the officials said.

The department issued an urgent appeal for volunteers to help look after the whales overnight as another 50 remained just offshore.

Mark Simpson, chairman of the Project Jonah whale conservation organisation, told the New Zealand Press Association that more whales were still coming into Spirits Bay.

“Pilot whales have very strong social bonds and they try to help each other, so more keep getting stuck,” he said.

Simpson said that whales identified as being fittest to move would be lifted in big nets onto the back of trucks lined with hay to be taken to the calmer Rarawa Beach, about an hour to the south of Spirits Bay.

A pod of 58 pilot whales stranded themselves at another isolated beach in Northland province last month. When found, 43 were already dead, another six died during the rescue attempt while nine were successfully refloated.

Filed under: Environment

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