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Posted: February 13, 2017

400 whales die in mass stranding in New Zealand

Hundreds Of Whales Die In Mass Stranding


By Jared Leone

Cox Media Group National Content Desk

PUPONGA, New Zealand —

Hundreds of dead, stranded whales are being punctured so they do not explode as volunteers work to rescue and prod surviving pod members back out to sea, according to New Zealand’s Department of Conservation.

Officials estimated that 400 whales died between Friday and Monday during the mass stranding in Farewell Spit in Golden Bay, which is on New Zealand’s south island.

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“DOC staff have finished their watch for the whales stranding in the area for tonight, but DOC staff will search the coastline early tomorrow for any stranded whales,” Trish Grant, a spokeswoman for the conservation department, said in a statement.

The dead whales will be removed by excavators and taken to a part of a nature preserve that is not open to the public, according to CNN. Pilot whales grow to about 25 feet and are common in New Zealand waters.

Hundreds of volunteers have helped rescue the stranded whales, splashing buckets of water to keep them cool and trying to refloat them. Some volunteers formed human chains in the water to try to stop any more whales from beaching themselves.

"People seem to have an emotional attachment to marine mammals," said Department of Conservation spokesman Herb Christophers. "They've been singing songs to them, giving them specific names, treating them as kindred spirits."

Farewell Spit, which arches into the Tasman Sea, has been the site of previous mass beachings.

This was the third largest stranding in the country’s history. There were 1,000 whales stranded on the Chatham Islands in 1918, according to CNN. Next, 450 whales beached themselves in Auckland in 1985.

The reason for the latest mass stranding is unclear, but Grant offered an explanation.

"Sometimes it can be caused by a diseased member among them. Because they have strong social bonds, if one of them gets in trouble, the rest can follow,” she told CNN.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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