Nearly 200 Whales Stranded on New Zealand Beach
Hordes of rescuers scramble to try to push huge animals back into deeper waters.
Nearly 200 Whales Stranded on New Zealand Beach
By Brian Clark Howard / news.nationalgeographic.com
Aug 3, 2015

Rescuers and volunteers were scrambling on Friday to save nearly 200 pilot whales that were stranded on New Zealand's South Island. At least two dozen of the whales were reported dead, and more than 80 people descended on the beach near the shallow waters of Farewell Spit to begin the difficult task of moving survivors back into the water.

The area on the South Island's northwest corner is an especially treacherous one for pilot whales because the shallow waters there can be confusing to navigate, New Zealand's Department of Conservation reported. Large strandings of pilot whales happen occasionally on New Zealand during the region's summer.

Trevor Spradlin, a marine mammal biologist with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has said that pilot whales are particularly at risk for group stranding because they are highly social animals that live in close-knit family groups, or pods.

"Their need for group cohesion is very strong, so these animals stay together," Spradlin said. He added that scientists believe that a pod typically gets stranded after one animal gets stuck—often an older or sick individual that was weakened by disease, hunger, a boat strike, or pollution.

"The rest get caught up in tide fluctuations and they get lost, because they focus on being with the sick individual," said Spradlin.

He added that such strong group cohesion also can be an asset to survival, because if the group can be freed, weaker individuals can receive protection and support from the stronger survivors. (In one rare case, a dolphin was even seen guiding stranded whales out to sea.)

Not Much Time to Rescue Them

Related to dolphins, pilot whales live around the world and are nearly as large as orcas. They are mostly dark gray, brown, or black but may have some lighter patches. The animals can reach a length of up to 21 feet (6.5 meters) and a weight of 7,050 pounds (3,200 kilograms).

When it comes to rescuing stranded whales, the techniques often depend on the remoteness of the site and the availability of equipment such as heavy movers, slings, or cranes.

"Time is usually of the essence," said Spradlin. "Cetaceans are designed to live in water, so when they are stranded on a beach their internal organs aren't used to having that weight on them and they start getting crushed."

To buy time, volunteers are trained to keep stranded marine mammals cool and wet as long as possible. (See how stranded pilot whales were rescued in the Everglades.)

 

If the animals can't be pushed back to sea, often they are euthanized to avoid a slow, painful death. Some groups use explosive charges to kill the animal as quickly as possible. Others use exsanguination, which involves cutting a major artery where the tail meets the body, and the animal bleeds out. Some use drugs, in an effort to kill the animals as humanely as possible.

0.0 ·
0
Trending Today
Every Town Needs a Remakery
Jeremy Williams41,855 views today ·
Have We Been Denying Our Human Nature for Four Hundred Years?
Lynn Parramore17,931 views today ·
Capitalism and Communism - Two Economic Systems With the Same Goal
Chris Agnos7,062 views today ·
4 Essential Self-Defense Moves Every Woman Should Know
2 min5,990 views today ·
How to Sustain Your Activism: What Grace Lee Boggs Would Have Taught Us
Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu5,900 views today ·
This Text Message Exchange Between a Mother and Daughter is Pure Gold
Belinda Hankins5,596 views today ·
This Is What It Takes to Stand Up: The Essence of Courage
Vanessa Baird5,150 views today ·
This is One of the Most Powerful Music Videos Ever Made
5 min4,481 views today ·
No, You're Not Entitled to Your Opinion
Patrick Stokes, Deakin University3,836 views today ·
Load More
New
21St Century Bastards #Faketoys May Be the Best Thing on the Internet
Andrew Butler
MP Says Government is Intentionally Making People Destitute to Prevent Organised Opposition
2 min
From the Politics of Division to the Politics of Humanity
Willy Mutunga
Capitalism and Communism - Two Economic Systems With the Same Goal
Chris Agnos
The Real Truth About Fake News
CrimethInc. Ex-Workers Collective
Sticky - Beautiful Animated Tale About a Remarkable Insect
19 min
Bright Spots - Stunning Animated Exploration of Island Conservation
8 min
Ending the Empathy Gap
Clio Chang
Will the Poor Always Be With Us?
Jim Tull
Load More
What's Next
Is "Help Me" Universal? Watch This Remarkable Interaction Between a Whale Shark and 3 Fishermen
4 min
A Fall From Freedom (2011)
121 min
Dawn to Death -The Dolphins of Taiji
28 min
Like us on Facebook?
Nearly 200 Whales Stranded on New Zealand Beach