Many of the whales were already dead, but the others had to be euthanized to minimize their suffering because they could not be released, the department added. This operation ended on Wednesday, he said.
“This is a sad event for the team and the community,” Dave Lundquist, technical adviser to the Department of Conservation, said in a statement, adding that representatives of the tribes who inhabit Chatham Island “were present to support” the efforts of the department. “A lot of people” were “affected” by the terrible scenes, he said.
Some 200 whales died just two weeks ago after being stranded on the west coast of Tasmania, an Australian island southeast of the mainland.
Efforts to save whales that weren’t already dead when they washed ashore on the Chatham Islands have been made more difficult by the archipelago’s remoteness and predators roaming the waters around it, it said. the Department.
“We don’t actively bail out whales on the Chatham Islands due to the risk of shark attack to humans and the whales themselves, so euthanasia was the milder option,” Lundquist said.
Experts don’t always know why whales are stranded on land, but it is a relatively common phenomenon that can also affect other marine animals such as dolphins. A “mass stranding” involves at least two animals, except in the case of a mother and her calf. Pilot whales in particular are “prolific stranders”, according to the Department of Conservation.
The largest recorded mass stranding on the Chatham Islands involved nearly 1,000 whales and occurred more than 100 years ago, the department said.
The archipelago is extremely remote – it takes around two hours to fly from New Zealand’s capital, Wellington, to Tuuta Airport in the Chatham Islands – and “limited communications and difficult logistics” make operations difficult, added the department.
When stranded whales aren’t already dead or seriously injured, conservationists are in some cases working to “refloat” them back into the water. This involves keeping the whales cool and moist on land to stabilize them before returning them to the ocean using tarps or large floating platforms.
Because pilot whales are social mammals, their instinct is to stay with their pods; they could collectively run aground in an effort to help an injured whale or run aground even after being refloated if they hear a whale’s distress call from land.
“So even when you do manage to get animals into deeper water, it’s not uncommon for them to turn their tails and come right back,” Karen Stockin, a marine biology researcher at Massey University in New Zealand , told the Washington Post in 2020.
In September, 32 whales were refloated outside Macquarie Harbor in Tasmania after running aground there. The islands The Parks and Wildlife Service said several of them were beached again that night. He said it would work to “re-float and release the remaining live whales”.
Lundquist said Wednesday that “all of the stranded pilot whales are now deceased and their bodies will be able to decompose naturally.”
“These events are difficult and challenging situations,” the Department of Conservation’s Chatham Islands team said in a statement. statement. “Although these are natural occurrences, they are still sad and difficult for those who help.”