51 pilot whales dead in mass stranding in New Zealand

Credit: Department of Conservation via AP)

Credit: Department of Conservation via AP)

Dozens of pilot whales died Friday in a mass stranding in New Zealand. It’s the third within a week after 145 pilot whales and nine pygmy killer whales died in two unrelated strandings.

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"When staff arrived at the scene approximately 30 -  40 pilot whales had re-floated themselves and returned to sea, however 51 whales remained," the New Zealand Department of Conservation said in a Friday news release. "All were dead but one. A decision was made to euthanise this whale, due to its very poor condition."

The latest stranding was at Hanson Bay on the remote Chatham Islands, The Associated Press reported.

The AP reported that Dr. Dave Lundquist, a technical adviser on marine species, said there is no evidence that the three strandings were linked.
"You're talking about strandings across the entire breadth of New Zealand in a very short period of time, which naturally does cause everyone to reflect on whether those might have something to do with one another," he said.

According to Lundquist, there are multiple reasons why these strandings happen, which could be a combination of whales navigating incorrectly, injuries or illness, man-made factors like underwater noise, or escaping from predators.

However, BBC News reported that Dr. Simon Ingram, a Professor of Marine Conservation at the University of Plymouth, said these strandings are not unusual, and although waters are warmer, he cautioned against blaming global warming.

"Pilot whales have probably been stranding in New Zealand since before people lived there,” Ingram said. “It's probably not anything to do with what humans have done.”

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