Whale strandings have become quite the frequent occurrence in New Zealand, but a massive stranding reported over the weekend that involved at least 145 pilot whales, is being coined one of the most significant whale strandings in the country’s history.
Image Credit: DOC
A statement produced by the regional Department of Conservation (DOC) on Monday denotes how the 145 pilot whales were comprised of two separate pods and were gathered at the Southern end of Mason Bay.
A good Samaritan spotted the beached whales while exploring the region on foot. Upon discovering the distressed marine mammals, the explorer reportedly traveled more than two hours away to seek help from officials.
Citing DOC’s statement, it wasn’t until 10:30 P.M. on Saturday that organization officials became aware of the situation at the New Zealand beach.
By the time officials arrived at the whale-stricken beach, approximately half of the stranded whales had already perished. Those remaining weren’t faring much better; their deteriorating health coupled with a plethora of other unfortunate events made rescue attempts futile. Consequently, officials were compelled to euthanize them.
“Sadly, the likelihood of being able to successfully re-float the remaining whales was extremely low,” explained Ren Leppens, the Operations Manager of DOC Raklura. “The remote location, lack of nearby personnel and the whales’ deteriorating condition meant the most humane thing to do was to euthanize. However, it’s always a heart-breaking decision to make.”
Officials are currently advising beach visitors to stay away from the whales for health and safety reasons.
The very next day, at least ten pygmy whales beached themselves at 90 Mile Beach, and additional large marine mammals were discovered at other neighboring shorelines. Fortunately, many of these animals are being rescued – put back into the ocean where they’ll get a second chance at life.
DOC responds to approximately 85 marine mammal strandings in New Zealand every year. The curious frequency of these events has earned New Zealand the reputation of being a hotspot for marine mammal strandings, albeit most circumstances involve only a single animal.
Experts have yet to fully understand why so many marine mammals beach themselves at one time like this, but some theories indicate that it could be indicative of factors such as illness, navigational error, predatory fear, tidal timings, weather, or a combination of these.
We can only hope that the cause of these unfortunate events will be revealed and that a means of preventing them can be implemented. Until then, this is a mystery that remains unsolved.