NEW ZEALAND CAPITOL (WELLINGTON) — Officials estimate that 477 pilot whales have perished after washing up on two isolated beaches in New Zealand in recent days.
Project Jonah’s general manager Daren Grover described the loss of all the stranded whales as “heartbreaking.” Sadly, none of the whales could be refloated and they all died of old age or were humanely euthanized.
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About 600 people live on the Chatham Islands, which are about 800 kilometres (500 miles) east of New Zealand’s main islands, where the whales beached themselves.
Out of the 230 pilot whales that became stranded in Tasmania, 32 have been saved so far. On Monday, 245 whales beached themselves in Waihere Bay, and on Friday, 232 did the same thing at Tupuangi Beach, according to the Department of Conservation.
A similar number of pilot whales, around 200, starved to death after washing up on a remote Tasmanian beach two weeks ago.
The Department of Conservation acknowledged in a Facebook post that “these events are tough, challenging situations.” “Although they occur naturally, they are still sad and difficult for those helping.”
Grover said that unlike previous strandings, they were unable to rally volunteers to try to refloat the whales because of the location’s isolation and the presence of sharks in the area’s waters.
Dave Lundquist, a technical marine advisor for the conservation department, said, “We do not actively refloat whales on the Chatham Islands due to the risk of shark attack to humans and the whales themselves, so euthanasia was the kindest option.” 477 whales die.
During the summer months in New Zealand, it is not uncommon for large numbers of pilot whales to become stranded on the coast. Researchers have yet to pinpoint a specific cause for the strandings, but it appears that the whales’ navigational systems can become disoriented by beaches with a slight slope.
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rover stated that the Chatham Islands provide a rich feeding ground for whales, and that as the whales approach land, they will quickly transition from deep to shallow water.
In spite of their reliance on echolocation, Grover observed, “it doesn’t tell them that they are running out of water.” “As they draw nearer to the shore, they start to feel disoriented. And then the tide can come in from below, leaving them stranded on the shore.”
Because of the beaches’ isolation, the whales’ remains will be left to decompose rather than being buried or towed out to sea, as is customarily done, Grover explained. Nature is a great recycler, he said, and the energy stored in the whales’ bodies would be returned to the environment in short order.
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