Sydney, Australia, Mar 18 (EFE).- At least 29 long-finned pilot whales died after a pod of the marine mammals became stranded at a New Zealand beach, said the conservation department on Friday.
The incident occurred at Farewell Spit, the longest beach in the world located northwest of the South Island of New Zealand.
“It is a sad morning following the stranding of 34 pilot whales on Farewell Spit with 29 dead,” the department said in a Facebook post.
The department confirmed that the five surviving pilot whales were re-floated with the high tide in the morning.
“Our rangers along with Project Jonah ( a local whale rescue group) senior medics are on site providing care to the remaining live whales. No additional help is being requested at this time,” said the conservation department.
“We are working with Manawhenua Ki Mohua to ensure the deceased whales are treated appropriately,” it said.
The department referred to an iwi-mandated organization representing Ngati Tama, Ngati Rārua, and Te Ātiawa within the Golden Bay catchment and Kahurangi National Park areas on the western side of Takaka Hill.
Rangers sighted the pod of whales last night at Farewell Spit, a 34-kilometer-long sandbank located in the tourist area of Golden Bay.
The conservation department said the “cause of this stranding is not known.”
“But Golden Bay is a high stranding area with Farewell Spit hooking around the northern entrance into the bay and forming extensive, many kilometres wide, intertidal sand flats.”
In February of last year, more than four dozen pilot whales became stranded in Farewell Spit. Thirty-eight of them were refloated.
Nearly 700 whales became trapped and 250 perished in the largest known stranding at Golden Bay in 2017.
Scientists have not yet been able to explain why pilot whales sometimes stray from their paths and become stranded in shallow water.
However, they are studying the possibility that the mammals get lost due to noise pollution or guided by a disorientated group leader. EFE