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Over 100 whales beached on New Zealand shore

by Bridgette Babb - Copy Editor
Wed, Dec 5th 2018 05:00 pm
Washed up 145 whales washed up on a beach in New Zealand over Thanksgiving weekend. Half of the whales were already dead and the other half were beyond the point of being saved and had to be euthanized by conservation officers. Conservationists are looking into the incident and what could have been the cause behind the pod getting stranded on the beach.
Washed up 145 whales washed up on a beach in New Zealand over Thanksgiving weekend. Half of the whales were already dead and the other half were beyond the point of being saved and had to be euthanized by conservation officers. Conservationists are looking into the incident and what could have been the cause behind the pod getting stranded on the beach.

It’s sad to see nature’s majestic creatures suffer long, slow deaths. Last weekend, up to 145 whales washed up dead or close to death on the New Zealand coast.

According to BBC News, it is not uncommon for the whales to be misplaced easily.  Ren Leppens of the regional Department of Conservation (DOC) said that incidents such as this can happen about 85 times a year. This pod of mostly pilot whales came as a surprise because there has never been this magnitude of whales stranded at one time. Half of the whales were already dead when they were found by DOC officers, who learned of the situation on Saturday, Nov. 24 by a hiker camping in the Mason Bay area. There were a few that were not dead, but were so hurt and pain stricken, the decision was made to euthanize them.

“The remote location, lack of nearby personnel and the whales’ deteriorating condition meant the most humane thing to do was to euthanize,” Leppens said. “However, it’s always a heartbreaking decision to make.” Leppens also said the whales were found half buried into the sand, which indicated they may have been there a day or two before they were discovered. The situation also indicated they tried to get back to the water, but only ended up burying themselves further. The dead whale carcasses will be left lined along the beach with the hope that nightly high tides will take them back into the water, letting nature run its course.

The hiker, Liz Carson, reflected on her experience as she was the first to find the endless line of suffering whales. She and a friend saw them from a distance, but mistook them for seals laying on the bank. After realizing it was, in fact, a line of dying whales, they contacted authorities and attempted to move some back into the water.

“We were pushing and trying to shove and drag them back out, but it was useless. They were so big and heavy, and so many of them,” Carlson told CNN. “Some were maybe 5-6 meters long, and even the babies were over a meter and all very heavy.”

She said their attempts were very dangerous with the whales moving around, even getting hit with a few of the whales tails and fins. She quickly realized the two of them would never be able to refloat the whales themselves and contacted the DOC immediately. She later took to instagram to share her frustrations over not being able to save or help the whales in any way.

“I’ll never forget their cries, the way they watched me as I sat with them in the water, how they desperately tried to swim but their weight only dug them deeper into the sands,” she wrote. “I sank to my knees in the sand screaming in frustration and crying, with the sound of dozens of dying whales behind me, utterly alone.”

According to Telegraph.co.uk, the cause for these events have yet to be discovered. Scientists cannot seem to conclude what is causing whales to go off course and find themselves in water so shallow, they eventually end up on shore unwillingly. They do speculate it could be due to: sickness, navigational error, geographical features, a rapidly falling tide, being chased by a predator or even extreme weather.

There were separate reports from FOX News of a 12 pod of Pygmy killer whales found on the northern tip of North Island. Four of the whales have passed away. Local marine mammal charity Project Jonah hopes to be able to save the final eight whales. It plans to attempt to refloat the whales in the near future. On another North Island beach, a 15m (50ft) sperm whale died on Saturday morning.  The body of a dead female Pygmy sperm whale was found at Ohiwa on the west coast of the North Island.

This whole situation is extremely sad. I hope in the future we can find better ways to help these animals get back in the water when stranded. Leaving the carcasses might seem cold to some people, but it makes sense. The carcasses will get in the water and feed hungry predators, with leftovers sinking to the bottom to feed those that live in the depths. This is just a part of the circle of life.