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Hundreds of whales die in mass stranding on New Zealand beach

12 February 2017

Numerous whales died but on Saturday, volunteers managed to refloat those that survived with the hope that the marine animals would swim back out to sea.

Eighty of the 100 whales refloated at Farewell Spit on Saturday morning have joined the second pod of 200 whales, the Department of Conservation says.

Stranded pilot whales at Farewell Spit, New Zealand today.

Numerous whales died overnight at Farewell Spit at the top of the South Island, but those that survived are now swimming in the bay off the beach. Recently, Care2′s Alicia Graef brought us the tragic story of a Cuvier's beaked whale that continually tried to beach itself and eventually died.

Project Jonah general manager Darren Grover said he was told last night a large pod of pilot whales had been spotted close to shore and it was feared they may beach overnight. And Farewell Spit is known as something of a "trap" for whale strandings where group beachings have happened before.

Volunteers were tasked with keeping the whales calm and wet with buckets of water and sheets before they can be refloated at high tide.

Thanks to the quick response of hundreds of farmers, tourists and teenagers around the beach, more than 140 whales were assured to be alive.

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"It is one of the saddest things I have seen, that many sentient creatures just wasted on the beach", Wiles said.

The highest ever recorded was in 1918 when around 1,000 became stranded on Chatham Islands.

It's also possible that changes in food sources or chasing prey could lead whales into shallow water.

Farewell Spit has been described as a whale trap, as its long coastline can be hard for whales to navigate away from. He said the water's edge was lined with whale carcasses, with more floating on the incoming tide.

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In 1985, about 450 of these marine animals got stranded in Auckland.

It is hoped the new arrivals who survived can be moved back out to sea during the next high tide in daylight on Sunday. The American Cetacean Society stated, "There are likely to be nearly a million long-finned pilot whales and at least 200,000 short-finned pilot whales worldwide".

It comes after 416 pilot whales beached on Farewell Spit in the South Island overnight on Thursday with 300 dying.