Whale stranding in New Zealand sparks rescue mission

Pilot whales, which can grow to more than six metres long, are prolific stranders.
Pilot whales, which can grow to more than six metres long, are prolific stranders.PHOTO: AFP

WELLINGTON (REUTERS, AFP) - New Zealand rangers and volunteers were trying to rescue some 25 whales stranded on a beach on the country’s North Island, the Department of Conservation said on Saturday (Oct 17).

A pod of around 40 whales was sighted swimming close to the shore in shallow muddy water early on Saturday before some of them got stranded, the department said in a statement on its Facebook account. The rest remained offshore, but in shallow waters.

Rangers and volunteers were onsite, it said. “We appreciate the public’s concern but at this stage NO FURTHER HELP IS NEEDED.” The next high tide was expected Saturday evening.

The whales were stranded on a beach in the Coromandel Peninsula. Auckland, the country’s biggest city, lies 55km to the west, on the far shore of the Hauraki Gulf.

Project Jonah general manager Darren Grover told reporters they were trying to keep the whales cool and healthy and would try to refloat them on the evening high tide.

Pilot whales, which can grow to more than 6m long, are prolific stranders and more than 376 died in a mass stranding in Australia last month.

That was Australia's largest-ever mass stranding, with around 470 pilot whales stuck in a remote harbour on Tasmania's rugged western seaboard, sparking a major effort to save the animals.

In late September, several hundred whales died in shallow waters off the Australian coast in one of the world’s biggest mass whale strandings.