Published: Thu, February 16, 2017
Research | By Kayla Price

Hundreds of Stranded New Zealand Whales Swim Free

Hundreds of Stranded New Zealand Whales Swim Free

And as hard as shifting hundreds of massive, rapidly decomposing carcasses sounds, that's only the half of it, because whales are known to explode after death, thanks to the gas that gets trapped in their stomachs like a giant balloon.

This picture taken on February 11, 2017 shows a volunteer caring for a pilot whale during a mass stranding at Farewell Spit. Volunteers successfully refloated the 17 that were still stranded the next day.

The Department of Conservation said authorities were working on arrangements to dispose of the dead whales at Farewell Spit.

Seventeen whales stranded at Golden Bay overnight and these selfless helpers are doing what they can to save them, but they need help.

Since then, more whales have also come ashore, including more than 200 on Saturday, who later mostly refloated on a high tide and returned to sea.

"People seem to have an emotional attachment to marine mammals", Herb Christophers, a spokesman for the Department of Conservation, told The Associated Press.

In recent days volunteers have formed human chains in the water to try to stop the creatures from beaching themselves again. "They've been singing songs to them, giving them specific names, treating them as kindred spirits".

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To avoid exploding whales, conservation officials wearing protective clothing began the tedious process Monday of cutting holes in 300 whale carcasses, Reuters reported.

Mr Lamason has suggested towing the bodies out to sea to let them decompose but the option could become gaseous and buoyant or end up washing into populated bays.

On Thursday, the New Zealand Department of Conservation discovered more than 400 whales stranded on the South Island's Farewell Spit, more than half of them already dead.

There are different theories as to why whales strand themselves, from chasing prey too far inshore to trying to protect a sick member of the group or escaping a predator.

About 1000 whales beached themselves on the Chatham Islands in 1918 and 450 near Auckland in 1985.

Pilot whales grow to about 25 feet and are common around New Zealand's waters. Almost 700 whales were stranded on Farewell Spit along New Zealand's South Island.

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