Feb 17, 2017 03:41 PM EST
In a bizarre but not rare phenomenon, hundreds of whales got themselves stranded on a New Zealand beach last week. The 'beaching' as the incident is called, killed most of the whales despite the local volunteers trying their best to save the aquatic creatures.
Volunteers rushed in to refloat the whales back in the sea but found many of them re-stranding themselves at the beach. According to Forbes, Department of Conservation of New Zealand has said that at least 20 of the whales had to be put to death humanely. The country's South Island's Farewell Spit was crowded with more than 650 pilot whales beaching themselves. Reportedly the volunteers were able to put only a hundred of them back to the sea.
The unfortunate is not the first one in the history of New Zealand. In 1918, a group of more than 1000 whales got stranded in the Chatam Islands. The Farewell Spit is known for having a "trap" like feature where group beaching of whales has happened before also. The cause of this mass stranding is assumed to be the loss of a leader, a female in the case of pilot whales, which might have caused the whales to get repeatedly lost and get stranded at the beach.
According to The Conversation, in 2015, 337 sei whales got stranded and died in a Fjord in Chile. In February 2016, 29 sperm whales were stranded on the beaches of Germany, the Netherlands, eastern England and northern France. In most cases of beaching, long finned and short finned pilot whales are the prime casualties. Other than that, false killer whales, melon-headed whales, Cuvier's beaked whales and sperm whales become victim to the mass stranding.
The main reason of whale stranding is misguided navigation, they often enter unknown territory chasing after the prey. There are also evidences that whale' migration is interrupted due to sonar activities of naval ships that drive the whales into shallow waters. Another reason for the whales to sway away from their normal route is assumed to be the pollution and toxicity now found in the oceans. NASA is also inquiring of the fact that whether solar storms can mess up the whales' internal navigational system.
Many of the whales found dead on the beach will have to undergo a necropsy to determine the exact cause of their death and to prevent the corpse from exploding on the beach. The explosion of whale carcass due to pent up gasses is not an uncommon phenomenon. The environmental scientists are already worried about the unfortunate whale stranding incident and they are trying to find solutions to avoid such tragedy in the future.
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