80 Pilot Whales Stranded on New Zealand Beach

pilot whale face photo

Image credit: Mr Moss/Flickr

On a remote beach in northern New Zealand, a group of conservationists and volunteers is struggling to keep 80 beached pilot whales alive until they can be pushed back into the ocean. With wind and waves too severe to perform the operation, the whales must be moved down shore to a protected inlet, but for many, the wait to be relocated has been too long.

pilot whales swimming under water photo

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Caroline Smith, a spokeswoman for the New Zealand Department of Conservation, explained:

As of this morning, there have been 24 live animals moved out of the tide up onto the beach out of harms' way...the weather is terrible up there. We have 20 knot winds and 1.5 to 2 meter (5 to 7 foot) swells, so it is not possible to refloat them at Spirits Bay.

As many as 25 of the whales where already dead when teams arrived on the beach and another 15 died during the night.

The social whales often try to help stranded members of their pods, leading to more and more beachings. Out of the water, whales overheat quickly and run the risk of being crushed by their own mass.

Less than a month ago, 50 whales were beached nearby. In 2007, a pod of 101 whales washed ashore on the same beach.

Scientists are not sure what causes such large-scale beaching events.

Read more about whales:
Curious Whales Check Out Photographers with Stunning Results (Slideshow)
Photographer Gets Within Inches of Whales (Slideshow)
Death Toll in Mysterious Mass Pilot Whale Beachings Hits 168

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