One pygmy whale remains alive after others beach again

Pablo Tucker
November 30, 2018

A backcountry hiker discovered the stranded whales at Mason Bay on Stewart Island/Rakiura, a rugged island 19 miles (30 kilometers) south of New Zealand's southern island.

Twenty-eight whales were found dead in the remote southeast of Australia Wednesday, following a mass stranding that has baffled experts. Two of them have died, but authorities have called on volunteers to help them save the rest by re-floating them out to sea Tuesday. "The remote location, lack of nearby personnel, and the whales' deteriorating condition meant the most humane thing to do was to euthanize", Leppens said in a press statement. "However, it's always a heart- breaking decision to make". But DOC authorities believe the events were unrelated.

Gail Wright of Parks Victoria said samples were being taken from the remains to try to understand how the whales came to be stranded.

Marine Biologist Jeff Weir told Neil we could still be decades away from understanding why these animals beach themselves. The short-finned are found in subtropical and tropical areas, while the long-finned are found in the higher latitudes of both hemispheres, according to the ACS.

Pilot whales travel in groups of between 20 and 90 individuals, so it's not uncommon for large numbers to be stranded together, but scientists don't know why the phenomenon occurs.

Alarming as this incident may be, such strandings are not uncommon in New Zealand.

A shark warning has been issued for the area, amid concerns sharks could be attracted to the shores. Like other cetaceans, pilot whales use echolocation to find their prey (pilot whales eat primarily squid, but also octopus, cuttlefish and small fish, such as herring).

The condition of the two pilot whale carcasses suggested they had been dead for a while before being found, Orbost Incident Control Centre's Stephen Young said. Scientists believe strandings can be caused by a number of factors, such as the whales trying to escape predators, falling ill, or navigating incorrectly.

Other reports by iNewsToday