Over 650 pilot whales have beached themselves on a New Zealand shore in what is considered the largest mass stranding in decades..
According to the island nation’s Department of Conservation, 650 pilot whales swam aground on Friday, Feb. 10 on Farewell Spit at the tip of South Island.
About 250 to 300 of the whales were already dead when the mass stranding was discovered.
A refloat of more than 100 whales took place on the high tide around 10.30 a.m., which was partially successful with around 50 whales out swimming in the bay.
The remaining 80 to 90 have been re-stranded on the beach, according to a news release. Rescue efforts will begin again in the morning since the DOC doesn’t work with stranded whales during darkness for safety reasons.
More than 500 volunteers flocked to the scene to assist with the rescue effort on Friday, many of whom will be onsite again Saturday morning.
Project Jonah, a New Zealand-based organization dedicated to preserving marine mammals, has been influential in the rescue efforts.
“Project Jonah has been doing a fantastic job organizing the volunteers, providing instruction and safety briefings, and even managing the car parking issues,” Andrew Lamason, DOC operations manager in Takaka, said in a statement.
The beached whales will be kept comfortable with the help of volunteers until dark. There will be another attempt to refloat any remaining stranded whales on the high tide around lunchtime on Saturday, the DOC said.
This is one of the worst incidents involving beached whales in the country’s history.