More Than 100 Whales Strand Themselves in New Zealand

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Volunteers keep two stranded whales wet after a mass pilot whale stranding in northern New Zealand on Sept. 23, 2010.

AP Photo/Richard Robinson

As authorities scrambled to pick up the pieces after a second major earthquake hit the southern New Zealand town of Christchurch on Tuesday, government workers further south had just finished handling an altogether different kind of natural disaster. (via Ecocentric)

Over the weekend, more than 100 pilot whales were found on a remote beach on Stewart Island off the larger South Island. By the time the Department of Conservation reached them, half the stranded whales were dead, and the remaining live animals had to be euthanized.

Whale strandings are not uncommon in New Zealand; a major stranding happens in the southern part of the country every 4 or 5 years, according to the Department of Conservation. Scientists around the world aren’t sure why whales beach themselves, but DOC spokesman Andy Roberts says in southern New Zealand, the two likely reasons are either that the pod has followed a sick animal on shore to help it, and become stuck in the shallow waters, or that the pod has made a navigational error and swam ashore. (He says there was no connection being made between the earthquake and the stranding.)

Read more at Ecocentric.