477 Pilot Whales Die After Stranding Themselves on Remote Beach

by Megan Molseed
(Getty Images)

It was a heartbreaking scene in New Zealand as nearly 500 pilot whales died after stranding themselves on two remote beaches. According to officials, by the time rescuers were on the scene many of the whales had already died. Others couldn’t be refloated. Some died naturally while others were euthanized.

New Zealand Officials Respond To Mass Beaching Of Pilot Whales

As many as 477 pilot whales stranded themselves on remote New Zealand beaches over the last few days. It’s a “heartbreaking” loss the experts note as all of the 477 beached whales have died.

The whales were found to have beached themselves on New Zealand’s Chatham Islands. This area lands about 500 miles east of New Zealand’s main islands and is home to around 600 residents. According to New Zealand’s Department of Conservation, 232 whales stranded themselves along the remote beaches of Tupuangi Beach. Then, another 245 pilot whales were found to have beached themselves on Monday at the Waihere Bay beach.

“These events are tough, challenging situations,” notes the Department of Conservation in a recent statement regarding the mass beaching. The officials note, however, that occurrences such as these are natural. But that doesn’t make it any less “sad and difficult for those helping.”

Dangers Lurking In The Water Prevented Officials From “Refloating” The Beached Whales

According to Daren Grover, the general manager of Project Jonah which is a nonprofit group focused on the rescue of whales, experts were unable to refloat some of the ocean animals that survived the initial beaching. Grover notes that sharks lurking in the surrounding areas posed a major threat to the beached ocean life.

While no official cause for this massive beaching has been determined, Grover believes that seeking meals closer to the shore lead to the tragedy. There is plenty of food in the area, Grover notes. However, when the mammals get closer to land while feeding they quickly find themselves in shallow waters.

“They rely on their echolocation,” Gover explains. “Yet it doesn’t tell them that they are running out of water.”

According to Grover, the whales “come closer and closer to shore and become disoriented.”

Then, the expert explains the tide can drop underneath the whales, sweeping them onto the beach.

The tide can then “drop from below” and before they know it, the whales are stranded on the beach.”

These deaths come just two weeks after around 200 pilot whales were found dead in Australia after stranding themselves on a Tasmanian beach. The carcasses will remain on the beaches to decompose since the area of the beachings is fairly remote.

“Nature is a great recycler,” Grover notes. “And all the energy stored within the bodies of all the whales will be returned to nature quite quickly.”