WELLINGTON • More than 400 whales were stranded on a New Zealand beach yesterday, with most of them dying quickly as frustrated volunteers desperately raced to save the survivors.
It was one of the largest mass strandings recorded in New Zealand, where such occurrences are relatively common, the Department of Conservation said.
Mr Andrew Lamason, the department's regional manager, said 416 pilot whales swam ashore at Farewell Spit on the northern tip of South Island. About 70 per cent had perished by the time wildlife officers reached the remote location. Some 500 volunteers pitched in to get the remaining whales offshore but by late afternoon, the majority of the 100-plus whales that were refloated at high tide had swum back ashore.
Pilot whales can grow up to 6m long and are the most common species of whales in New Zealand waters.