Whale strandings : pilot whales in New Zealand’s Golden Bay

Thirty-eight pilot whales which stranded in Golden Bay yesterday have re-stranded, despite a successful refloating exercise this morning. 3News reports on a natural tragedy that still baffles scientist. *** Please post comments below, at https://twitter.com/#!/LearnFromNature or http://www.facebook.com/pages/LearnFromNature/122123191208795

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A 3 News cameraman at the scene said rescuers were now working in waist-deep water where the whales had re-stranded.

“We tried to encourage them to move to deeper water, but they wouldn’t move,” Department of Conservation Golden Bay manager John Mason told NZ Newswire.

“They just milled around in a group and didn’t show any inclination to move, other than 4-500m down the beach.”

Project Jonah’s Kim Muncaster says one whale lead the others into shore.

“After [we] refloated them, one of the larger whales made a determined attempt to get back on shore,” she says.

The other whales then followed – causing them to re-strand.

The rescue mission is made worst by the fact the tide is quickly receding, with low-tide forecast for just after 5pm.

DOC spokesman Nigel Mountfort says the whales are stuck “high and dry, exactly where they were yesterday”.

For now, the plan is to cover the whales in sheets, keep them wet, keep the sun off them and shovel around their tails and fins to help them stay upright.

Once night falls and the tide starts coming in, it is hoped the whales will refloat themselves, Mr Mountfort says.

Project Jonah and DOC will review the situation in the morning, but it is too dangerous for volunteers to stay in the area overnight.

Almost 100 pilot whales stranded about 7 kilometres from the base of Farewell Spit on Monday, in the third mass stranding of the summer.

Volunteers and Project Jonah worked throughout the night to keep them alive.

Thirty-four whales did not survive the night but 39 were refloated at high-tide this morning.

By midday the whales were 200m offshore with volunteers coaxing them out to deeper water.

Twenty-six that refloated themselves overnight were seen swimming away this afternoon.

Mr Mason said the unfortunate turn of events was “disappointing”.

“We put a lot of work in trying to refloat the whales and they chose not to go. It’s disappointing but we will try and refloat them again and hopefully they will choose to leave.”

About 50 people had volunteered to help with rescue efforts, with people travelling from as far as Australia, Auckland and Invercargill to take part.

Mr Mountford said the dead whales would either be buried or left to dry out in the dunes.

3 News / NZN

Read more: http://www.3news.co.nz/Pilot-whales-re-strand-despite-rescue-attempts/tabid/1160/articleID/240464/Default.aspx#ixzz1kSu12vF4

Video http://www.3news.co.nz/Mass-stranding-Volunteers-work-to-refloat-39-pilot-whales/tabid/1216/articleID/240441/Default.aspx


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