Whale Clean-Up Starts In New Zealand After Mass Beachings

Some of the hundreds of people who travelled to Farewell Spit to help Project Jonah and the Department of Consevation

Department of Conservation Golden Bay operations manager, Andrew Lamason, said rescuers are sure this is a new pod because they had tagged all the refloated whales from the first group.

About 300 whales will be moved with a digger and buried in the sand dunes further up Farewell Spit, South Island.

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of whale strandings in the world, and Friday's event was the nation's third-biggest in recorded history, the AP reported.

Workers spent Monday cutting holes in the animals, using knives and two-meter needles, to release internal gases. By mid-morning, rescuers have started refloating almost 100 whales, of which around 50 returned to the sea.

The authorities have now prevented access of the area where the dead bodies of the New Zealand stranded whales can be found. According to the organization, a few hundred volunteers were on hand in case more whales got into difficulty. Coastal storms and extreme tides around the full and new moon are thought to disorient them and drive them into dangerously shallow waters.

"We've finished for tonight, but we'll resume our searches tomorrow".

On Saturday, New Zealand's Department of Conservation had put out an urgent call for help, but by Sunday, Project Jonah announced that there would be no more need for volunteers.

They are also working now on how to properly go about the disposal of the rotting bodies of the stranded whales.

"You don't usually get this many traveling at once, we have 180 once before but I think a lot of (answers as to why) are unknown really", Inwood said.

Mass beachings are not uncommon at Farewell Spit, where it is believed the gently shifting sandy beaches may not be picked up by the whales' echolocation.

"By taking biopsy samples and doing analyses, we're potentially able to isolate the reason for this".

DOC ranger Mike Ogle posited a different theory on a local radio broadcast, reports The Independent, which notes Ogle suggested a shark may have been to blame. Often

Often described as a whale trap, its unique shape, and shallow waters affect the echolocation of the mammals as they are making their way around the South Island's northern tip.

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