Rescuers in New Zealand have created a human chain in the shallow waters of an extremely remote beach in New Zealand in a desperate attempt to save over 400 beached pilot whales. An estimated three-quarter of the whales had already perished before the beaching was discovered late Thursday night. The beaching took place at a place known as Farewell Spit on the South Island. It is one of the worst whale beachings in the history of New Zealand, reports BBC.
Per the New Zealand’s Department of Conservation, there are around 300 volunteers who have joined the conservation workers to try and save the remaining pilot whales. Rescuers had re-floated the whales during high tide and formed a human chain in an attempt to prevent them from trying to swim back towards shore.
Volunteers used blankets doused with water to keep the whales cool and damp while they waited for high tide. Rescuers refloated over 100 whales this morning. Fifty whales were able to return to the sea. However, another 90 whales who were freed, re-beached themselves a few hours later.
Project Jonah, a New Zealand volunteer rescue group, has stated that 416 whales had become stranded. Before they were discovered 75 percent of the pilot whales had died. The Department of Conservation puts the number of dead whales as between 250 and 300, reports NBC News.
Volunteers state that high tide was their only opportunity to help the whales. If the whales become stranded for a second- time volunteers will have to wait until Saturday for the next daytime high tide. Rescuers are also being aided by local farmers and other residents. People have also begun arriving from other parts of New Zealand.
Strandings occur almost every year at Farewell Spit, but conservationists state that a stranding of this size is shocking. There are several different theories on how the whales found themselves in this predicament including the theory that they chased prey too far inshore. One expert states that the pilot whales may have been attempting to protect a sick member of their group, reports FOX 8.
Farewell Spit features a long protruding coastline and sloping beaches. It is often referred to as a whale trap.
Rescuers say that most the whales are in bad shape and their health would most likely deteriorate. For the safety of volunteers, work will be halted overnight. New Zealand conservationists fear that volunteers could be placed in danger by the overstressed pilot whales.
by Tammy Marie Rose
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