Researchers say that about 100 pilot whales were stranded on a beach on the Chatham Islands, in New Zealand. The island is located 800km east of New Zealand’s South Island. The final tally was 97 whales and three dolphins.
Sadly, the Department of Conservation (DOC) was unable to reach them for three hours due to a power outage.
DOC Biodiversity Ranger, Jemma Welch, said that a few whales were still alive when they were found, but none of them ended up making it.
“Only 26 of the whales were still alive at this point, the majority of them appearing very weak, and were euthanized due to the rough sea conditions and almost certainty of there being great white sharks in the water which are brought in by a stranding like this,” Welch said in a statement.
Two additional whales were stranded by Monday morning when a team of DOC staff made a follow-up visit to the site. These whales were doing so poorly that they also had to be euthanized.
97 whales and 3 dolphins died in a mass stranding on New Zealand’s Chatham Islands.
Rescuers were unable to reach the islands in time due to the remote location, known as a whale stranding “hotspot.”
— UkFour (@UkFour) November 26, 2020
The whales will not be moved, but will be left to decompose on the beach naturally. A ceremony will later be held to honor them.
Mass strandings for whales have occurred before on Chatham Island. In 1918, up to 1,000 animals died in a single stranding. In nearby Tasmania in September of this year, 380 whales were stranded and died.
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It is still unclear why this happens, although sometimes there are explanations in some instances, and researchers have a variety of theories about the possible reasons.
A study in the journal Current Biology has suggested that solar storms could throw gray whales off navigation and cause their stranding.
The study pointed out that Gray whales used magnetic fields to navigate and that solar storms can disrupt the earth’s magnetic fields.
Ellen Coombs, a researcher at University College London, told National Geographic that this study is not conclusive, but it does offer a possible explanation for some of the more mysterious cases.
“Although this paper does not offer conclusive evidence for magnetoreception in these whales, it does add an indication in this direction because it removes some other possible causes of strandings such as bycatch, ship strike, or obvious illness,” Coombs said.
In some cases, sonar in battleships and other types of military devices have also been blamed for mass strandings.
Whale stranding increase may be due to military sonar exercises, say experts https://t.co/smWFsKkbKn
— Charlie B (@towersofbass) November 19, 2020
Image Featured: Kalev Kevad/Wikimedia