New Zealand beaches: Hundreds of whales wash up dead

"We're sort of preparing ourselves for a pretty traumatic period ahead."

New Zealand beaches: Hundreds of whales wash up dead

In a horrific incident, more than 400 whales were left stranded on a New Zealand beach on Friday, where most of them died quickly.

It was one of the largest mass beachings recorded in New Zealand, Department of Conservation said.

The reports quoted Andrew Lamason, the department's regional manager, as saying that 416 pilot whales swam ashore at Farewell Spit in the Golden Bay region, on the northern tip of South Island.


However, about 70 per cent of these had perished by the time wildlife officers reached the remote location, while about 500 volunteers stepped in to get the remaining whales offshore.

"With that number dead, you have to assume that the rest are in reasonably poor nick as well," he told Radio New Zealand. "So we're sort of preparing ourselves for a pretty traumatic period ahead."

Department spokesman Herb Christophers told AFP that there were so many whale carcasses that it was difficult for the volunteers to get living animals into the water. "The dead ones that are floating around out there are obstructing their course out to sea," he said.

The volunteers at the beach were also advised to be wary of the thrashing tails and fins of the distressed whales, which can weigh up to two tonnes. Pilot whales grow up to 20 feet long and are the most common species of whale in New Zealand waters.

Christophers said whale carcases were sometimes tethered in the shallows so sea creatures could feed on them but such a solution might not work for Golden Bay, a popular tourist area. He said they would probably "dig a bloody big hole" and bury the carcasses.