100 Whales Die In Unexplained Mass Stranding Near New Zealand

By Mark Horowitz

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.

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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.

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.

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.

Some say the animals could be getting disoriented after following fish they hunt to the shore.

Others believe that one leading individual can mistakenly lead whole groups to shore.

Researchers also think that groups of whales could get confused near beaches that slope across a wide area because their sonar pulses can sometimes fail to detect the shoreline in shallow waters, according to the BBC.

Source: Anewspost.com

Mark Horowitz is a graduate of Brandeis University with a degree in political science. Horowitz could have had a job at one of the top media organizations in the United States, but when working as an intern, he found that the journalists in the newsroom were confined by the anxieties and sensibilities of their bosses. Horowitz loved journalism, but wanted more freedom to pursue more complex topics than you would find on the evening news. Around the same time, he began to notice that there was a growing number of independent journalists developing followings online by sharing their in-depth analysis of advanced or off-beat topics. It wasn’t long before Horowitz quit his internship with a large New York network to begin publishing his own material online.

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