On New Zealand beach “Farewell Spit”, 416 pilot whales were beached overnight. There were another 200 stranded the day before, just 11 km away. Volunteers from Project Jonah are now helping to clean up, aware that there may be sharks nearby attracted to the amount of blood. To be clear, the whales are stuck on the land because they were probably scared out of the water for some reason.
As the morning wore on, an urgent plea was issued for locals to drop work and school commitments and head to the remote beach to save the whales, bringing towels, buckets and sheets to keep them cool, calm and wet.
If the whales are able to make it through the night (which roughly 70% didn’t), the volunteers can use their efforts to push the whales back in the ocean. There, the whales will be weakened and will need to avoid the heat, stingrays, and sharks.
To be more successful, the volunteer team will reconvene at high tide. Andrew Lamason, a team leader for the DOC Takaka area, said it was common for whales involved in a mass stranding to re-beach themselves, because they were social animals and would stay in close proximity to their pod, the majority of which were now lying dead on the beach.