Another sad Farewell for whales in New Zealand
Rescuers successfully refloated 28 pilot whales stranded on a notorious stretch of New Zealand’s coast on Tuesday, but the mammals remained close to shore and could beach themselves again, wildlife officials warned.
The Department of Conservation said the long-finned pilot whales were part of a pod of around 50 found on Monday at Farewell Spit, about 90 kilometers north of the South Island tourist town of Nelson.
Around 40 were pushed out to sea on Monday evening but swam back ashore by the next morning, with around 60 volunteers helping move the 28 survivors back into the water.
“The whales have been close to shore and it’s uncertain whether they will swim off or possibly restrand,” a DOC spokesperson said.
“DOC rangers and volunteers remain on-site ready to respond if the whales start swimming for shore and become stranded again.”
At least 15 of the original pod have died. Farewell Spit is a 26km hook of sand that protrudes into the Golden Bay.
It has been the scene of at least 10 pilot whale strandings in the past 15 years. The most recent was in February 2017, when almost 700 beached, resulting in 250 deaths.
Scientists are unclear why the beach is so deadly. One theory is the spit creates a shallow seabed that interferes with the whales’ sonar navigation.