More than 100 pilot whales – plus dolphins – die in a beaching on New Zealand’s remote Chatham Islands
- Mass whale stranding has been discovered on remote islands 800km west of NZ
- Locals put on a radio call with Department of Conservation rangers responding
- The whales will not be removed from the beach on the islands, population 670
More than 100 pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins have died in a mass stranding on the remote Chatham Islands, 800km west of New Zealand.
Most of the marine mammals beached themselves over the weekend but rescue efforts were hampered by the islands’ isolated location, conservation officials said on Wednesday.
Department of Conservation biodiversity ranger Jemma Welch said 69 whales had already died by the time wildlife officers reached the beach.
More than 100 pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins have died in a mass stranding on the remote Chatham Islands, 800km west of New Zealand (pictured)
The Chatham Islands are also the site of the largest recorded mass whale stranding in history, when 1,000 beached themselves in 1918
Locals had put out a radio call for assistance to authorities and to other boats which frequently journey to the popular scuba diving spot.
Ms Welch said 28 pilot whales, including two that beached on Monday after the initial stranding, and three dolphins were euthanised.
‘The animals had to be put down due to the rough sea conditions and almost certainty of there being great white sharks in the water which are brought in by a stranding like this,’ she explained.
Members of the local Maori community also performed a ceremony to honour the spirits of the whales, which would be left to decompose naturally.
This beaching comes just two months after more than 350 pilot whales died across the Tasman Sea in a beaching on the west coast of Tasmania.
The Chatham Islands are the site of the largest recorded mass whale stranding in history, when 1,000 beached themselves in 1918.
Pilot whales grow up to six metres long and are the most common species of whale in New Zealand waters.
The causes of mass strandings remain unknown despite scientists studying the phenomenon for decades.
Theories include pod members following a sick leader ashore, shoreline geography that scrambles the animals’ sonar, the presence of predators, and extreme weather.
While it is not known why wales beach themselves there are some prominent theories