Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

Another 51 pilot whales die off New Zealand

The beached pilot whales lie in clusters dead on the shore of Hanson Bay in the Chatham Islands. Workers with New Zealand's Department of Conservation sought to prepare the 51 bodies for burial Friday Mass whale stranding on Chatham Islands
Kristen Harrington | 03 December, 2018, 14:08

Early previous year, more than 300 of the animals died and 100 more were beached at the top of New Zealand's South Island, in what was one of the country's worst strandings.

The Department of Conservation said it was notified of about 80 to 90 pilot whales stranded at Hanson Bay, near Owenga, on Thursday evening, stuff.co.nz reported.

"When staff arrived at the scene approximately 30 - 40 pilot whales had re-floated themselves and returned to sea, however 51 whales remained", the country's Department of Conservation explained Friday.

By the time conservation workers arrived there, about 75 of the whales were already dead and they euthanised the others by shooting them due to their poor condition.

It is the fifth stranding in New Zealand in less than a week, involving 145 pilot whales which all died after they beached last weekend on Stewart Island, off the southern coast of the South Island. The department said one beached whale remained alive, which staff chose to euthanize due to its poor condition. "It was the most humane thing to do".

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In Australia, twenty-seven pilot whales this week stranded themselves at the remote Croajingolong National Park in Victoria's East Gippsland, where a dead humpback whale, separate to the pod, also washed ashore.

'This is always an bad decision to have to make, ' he said.

This has been a tragic week for marine mammals.

The Chatham Islands are about 500 miles east of New Zealand's main islands and are home to about 600 people.

Stockin, who is an expert consultant on strandings for the International Whaling Commission, said it added to a string of unusual whale behaviour over the past year.

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Ms Stockin said New Zealand was now experiencing some of the warmest ocean temperatures on record and she believed it was affecting whale behaviour.

"We definitely have a spike in temperatures, that's likely affecting where the prey is moving and as a outcome we're seeing prey moving and (whale) species following".

The stranding comes less than a week after 145 whales were stranded in Stewart Island, pictured.

Man-made causes, such as the sonar used by military vessels, have also been linked with the kinds of disorientation that can cause mass strandings.

More than one factor might contribute to a stranding.

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