SYDNEY – Rescuers were trying on Saturday to save a large pod of whales stranded in shallow, muddy water off the coast of Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand, officials said.
“A pod of whales between 40 to 60 were sighted swimming close to the shore. Roughly 25 have sadly stranded on the mudflats, the rest we are shepherding out to sea,” the conservation department said in a Facebook post.
“We have staff on site who are supported by the rural fire brigade and members of the local (community). They are keeping the whales comfortable,” the department said.
The next high tide was expected Saturday evening.
The department urged the people to “stay away from the site to allow us to do our job.”
The Project Jonah organization, which works to protect New Zealand’s marine mammals, published photographs from the current mass stranding in Corolamdel.
“Volunteers are currently keeping the whales cool and wet, awaiting the next high tide at 9 pm,” it said.
The pictures on its Facebook page showed whales lying on the sand and covered by wet sheets as some volunteers poured seawater on them.
The stranding comes weeks after nearly 500 long-finned pilot whales were trapped in a bay in shallow waters off the Australian coast.
The largest recorded stranding in the world occurred in 1918 when about 1,000 pilot whales were trapped off the Chatham Islands in southeastern New Zealand.
Long-finned pilot whales are a protected species belonging to the dolphin family.
Although there are no official figures, scientists estimate that there were about 200,000 specimens of long-finned pilot whales distributed in the North Atlantic and in the southern ocean waters that border Antarctica.
Scientists have not been able to determine the reasons why whales become stranded in shallow waters en masse after deviating from their routes.
However, there is a possibility that they get lost as they are attracted to noise pollution.