New Zealand rescuers form human chain to help stranded whales

A group of about 100 volunteers, supported by three boats, successfully turned the whales away from shore by blocking their path, conservation officials said in a statement.

By: Reuters | Sydney | Updated: February 11, 2017 2:02:46 pm
new zealand, whale deaths, pilot whales, pilot whale deaths, pilot whales stranded, stranded whales, human chain, new zealand human chain, world news, indian express news Volunteers try to guide some of the stranded pilot whales still alive back out to sea after one of the country’s largest recorded mass whale strandings, in Golden Bay, at the top of New Zealand’s South Island, on Saturday (Source: REUTERS)

Whale rescuers in New Zealand linked arms in neck-deep water on Saturday to try and prevent about 200 pilot whales from stranding themselves again in a remote bay, where 300 of the animals died this week. The incident, in the shallow muddy waters of Golden Bay, at the northwest tip of South Island, was New Zealand’s largest known whale stranding since 1985, when 450 of the animals were stranded in Auckland, and the third largest on record.

A group of about 100 volunteers, supported by three boats, successfully turned the whales away from shore by blocking their path, conservation officials said in a statement. By mid-afternoon, the whales had moved offshore and were being monitored by boat as the tide dropped. “Emotionally, it’s quite stressful, because you can hear the whales calling, which is really quite strong,” one volunteer told broadcaster TVNZ.

new zealand, whale deaths, pilot whales, pilot whale deaths, pilot whales stranded, stranded whales, human chain, new zealand human chain, world news, indian express news Volunteers try to guide some of the stranded pilot whales still alive back out to sea on Saturday. (Source: REUTERS) new zealand, whale deaths, pilot whales, pilot whale deaths, pilot whales stranded, stranded whales, human chain, new zealand human chain, world news, indian express news (Source: REUTERS) new zealand, whale deaths, pilot whales, pilot whale deaths, pilot whales stranded, stranded whales, human chain, new zealand human chain, world news, indian express news German visitor Lea Stubbe rubs water on a pilot whale that beached itself at the remote Farewell Spit on the tip of the South Island of New Zealand on Friday. (Source: New Zealand Herald via AP)

Although about 100 whales stranded overnight were floated just after dawn, a fifth of that number beached themselves again in the afternoon. “These whales are not in good condition and will be euthanised to relieve their suffering,” the department of conservation said in its statement.

new zealand, whale deaths, pilot whales, pilot whale deaths, pilot whales stranded, stranded whales, human chain, new zealand human chain, world news, indian express news Volunteers walk between some of the hundreds of stranded pilot whales. (Source: REUTERS) new zealand, whale deaths, pilot whales, pilot whale deaths, pilot whales stranded, stranded whales, human chain, new zealand human chain, world news, indian express news A dead pilot whale lies on a sandbank (Source: REUTERS)

Since a conservation worker spotted the whales washed ashore on Thursday evening, rescuers have spent two days pouring water over the beached whales to try and keep them cool, while waiting to catch high tides to carry them out to sea again. School children have sung to soothe the distressed animals.

new zealand, whale deaths, pilot whales, pilot whale deaths, pilot whales stranded, stranded whales, human chain, new zealand human chain, world news, indian express news Volunteers pour water over beached whales at the remote Farewell Spit on the tip of the South Island of New Zealand. (Source: New Zealand Herald via AP) new zealand, whale deaths, pilot whales, pilot whale deaths, pilot whales stranded, stranded whales, human chain, new zealand human chain, world news, indian express news Volunteers attend to some of the hundreds of stranded pilot whales still alive. (Source: REUTERS)

The scale of the latest event “was a shock,” even for a country with the most whale strandings in the world, said Darren Grover of Project Jonah, a marine environmental group.

The precise cause was not known, though beached whales are not uncommon at Golden Bay, whose murky low-lying waters Project Jonah says can confuse the marine mammals’ sonar, leaving them vulnerable to stranding when the tide ebbs. Pilot whales are not listed as endangered, but little is known about their population in New Zealand waters.

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