Hundreds of ordinary Kiwis rush to aid of beached whales
Desperate efforts are underway to save dozens of pilot whales still alive after hundreds stranded themselves on a New Zealand beach, in the third largest mass stranding in the country's history.
He explained that all the surviving whales had been refloated and, and that about 100 volunteers had formed a human chain in the sea to prevent them from beaching again, standing neck-deep in wet suits to courageous the cold waters.
Whales often get stuck at Golden Bay, a remote but popular holiday area at the top of New Zealand's south island.
Around 100 whales have been refloated so far, according to Project Jonah, an organisation in New Zealand that mobilises stranding rescue operations.
Volunteers have been working in collaboration with the department and marine mammal charity Project Jonah since Friday morning to return surviving whales to the ocean.
"It is terribly sad to see these magnificent creatures in this state and distressing and traumatic for the volunteers to see the hundreds of dead whales on the beach".
Over the past couple of days, a total of 650 whales have stranded themselves along the Farewell Spit coastline that is five kilometres long and is situated at the northern tip of South Island. Other reasons why whales beach themselves could be to chase prey too close to the shore or to protect a sick member of the group or to escape a predator.
"Normally (they) are between November and March and it's not many years we don't have one".
Pilot whales are also highly sociable.
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New Zealand's largest whale stranding incident occured in 1985.
There was only one opportunity on Friday to float the whales at high tide, as no work will be done overnight due to the risk to people.
Andrew Lamason, the conservation department's regional manager, said it was one of the largest mass beachings ever recorded in New Zealand.
Officials have begun speculating how to best remove the whale carcasses from the beach.
"We were told by DOC there may well be whales on the beach this morning".
"There are 240 at the last count stranded whales between Pyponga and Pakawau and they're stranded in clusters of the sand".
Each time a whale survives a stranding they become steadily weaker.
Farewell Spit has been described as a whale trap, as its long coastline can be hard for whales to navigate away from.
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