More Than 120 Whales Dead in Mass Stranding on Chatham Islands

More than 120 pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins died in a mass stranding on the Chatham Islands, the Department of Conservation (DOC) of New Zealand said on Nov. 25.

More than 120 pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins died in a mass stranding on the Chatham Islands, the Department of Conservation (DOC) of New Zealand said on Nov. 25.

The DOC said that a total of 97 pilot whales and three dolphins died after being stranded on the Waitangi West Beach while 26 of the whales that were alive but “very weak” had to be euthanized.

DOC Biodiversity Ranger Jemma Welch said that the animals had to be 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.”

The DOC was notified on the stranding last Nov. 22 at 12:30 p.m., but Welch said that the remote location and power outage made contacting people difficult, delaying the animal rescue mission. The rangers arrived at the beach at 3 p.m.

Two more whales had stranded on the beach last Nov. 23 when the rangers made a follow-up visit. The animals were also euthanized.

Hokotehi Moriori Trust and Ngāti Mutunga o Wharekauri Iwi Trust of the local Maori community performed a ceremony last Nov. 23 with the DOC staff and other locals to honor the spirits of the whales, which will be left to naturally decompose.

According to the DOC, mass stranding in the Chatham Islands, which lie 800 km to the west of New Zealand, are “reasonably common.”


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