According to authorities, 198 pilot whales stranded on a New Zealand beach are challenging rescue efforts to save them. Two dozen have already died as a result of weather conditions and nightfall, Fox News reports.
The nearly 200 stranded whales are located on Farewell Spit at Golden Bay near, Nelson. Farewell Spit is a major destination for the sea giants to beach. About 80 conservation workers and volunteers are on a mission to refloat the whales with high tides coming in. Department of Conservation Area Manager, Andrew Lamason, says about 500 volunteers might be needed to get the whales out, New Zealand Herald reports.
There was an estimated 30 pilot whales stranded to start with, but the number went up in quick succession to 60, 143, then 198. Lamason expects more whales to die in addition to the two dozen that have already perished. They had to put the efforts on hold overnight because the area manager said it was "just far too dangerous" to have workers and volunteers out.
Lamason is telling people to prepare themselves for the possibility that some of the stranded whales might be euthanized.
A significant number of pilot whales in the pod are adults and juveniles most likely related to each other, Lamason says.
"It's like a hapu or a village. It's a whole mixed family group."
Due to the geography of Golden Bay, Lamason explains that it makes for a place pilot whales to get stranded because it has a big shallow "hook" and mammals get confused. Their navigational abilities are compromised.
"It's a big, shallow hook. Things come in, they get disoriented, and unfortunately we end up with a lot of dead whales," Lamason said.
Another theory as to why the pilot whales are stranded points to their sociable behavior. If one of them loses its way, members of their pod swim to its aid.
CNN reports that with its rich marine life, New Zealand has one of the highest stranding rates of sea mammal life in the world.
Pilot whales are described as "oceanic dolphins and include two species -- long-finned and short-finned." They grow up to 20 feet in length.
The Inquisitr has written on pilot whales in other stories. In 2013, several of the sea creatures were stranded at Everglades National Park.
As long as the tide cooperates with rescuers helping the pilot whales stranded in Golden Bay, the majority of them will return to sea.
[Photo Credit: Phys.Org]