MSNBC News is reporting that 36 pilot whales have died after stranding themselves on a remote New Zealand beach on Monday.
And conservationists were today battling to save another 40 of the whales on Farewell Spit on the South Island. Efforts to save the animals included using one refloated whale on a pontoon to encourage the others away from the shore again.
Volunteers managed to free 17 of the larger group of 100 pilot whales that were initially stranded. A further six whales remained unaccounted for.
According to John Mason, area manager of the country’s Department of Conservation, the whale pod were briefly swimming in shallow water but became stranded again by the evening as the tide went out.
“It’s disappointing, they just came back on shore,” he said.
Department of Conservation area manager John Mason said volunteers would try to keep the whales cool and wet until dark.
He said after that, all they could hope for was that the whales would swim away on the next high tide during the night.
Pilot whales, which are members of the dolphin family and grow to about 20 feet in length, regularly strand themselves in large numbers during the New Zealand summer months.
Experts describe Farewell Spit as a whale trap due to the way its shallow waters seem to confuse whales and diminish their ability to navigate.
Just earlier this month, 18 pilot whales were successfully re-floated after 25 of the animals,were stranded at the sand spit.
Here is a video on the New Zealand pilot whale stranding: