Forty nine Pilot Whales, stranded on a North Island, New Zealand, beach, have died and are being buried under the dunes of this quiet shore.
On Friday morning, a total of 58 Pilot Whales were found stranded on Karikari Beach, in Northland, by local residents. Most had already died. Volunteers, along with the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DoC), were able to re-float and save nine of them.
The New Zealand DoC is using bulldozers and working with the local Maori tribe, an indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand, to bury the whales. Maori elders prayed over the dead whales as the trench was dug.
101 pilot whales beached themselves along this same shore in 2001.
DoC spokeswoman Sioux Campbell said it is not known why whales tend to strand themselves on New Zealand’s shores. “Sometimes what happens is one of the whales is sick, and because they live in very close societies the others will follow. Sometimes they just get lost, we think that their radar gets confused,” she stated.
It’s estimated that the pilot whales had been beached for about 12 hours before being found. It was a stormy night, and rough seas the following day hampered rescue efforts.
Part of the oceanic dolphin family, marine biologists say pilot whales behave more like whales than dolphins in many ways.
The nine survivors were being monitored. At last report, they were seen swimming well and heading out to sea.