Nelson, New Zealand (AFP) Feb 5, 2011
At least 14 whales from a pod of more than 80 beached on the New Zealand coast have died, with officials fearing others may be stranded elsewhere after freeing themselves on Saturday.
Department of Conservation staff were searching beaches west of the South Island tourist city of Nelson looking for survivors.
"We don't know whether they have managed to swim safely (out to) sea or whether they may have stranded somewhere else along the coast," department spokeswoman Trish Grant said.
Residents at Farewell Spit, 150 kilometres (93 miles) from Nelson, said the whales began beaching themselves early Friday afternoon.
Conservation staff rushed to the area to keep the whales cool and hydrated in the afternoon sun but 14 had died before they refloated themselves on a midnight high tide.
"Some, even though they are refloated, do wash up dead later on because they've been through such an ordeal so they are considerably weakened by it," Grant said.
Whale strandings are not uncommon in the area and Grant said there were various theories as to why the animals beached themselves.
"It's something that has occurred reasonably often in Golden Bay with pilot whales, and just even the shape of the bay could mean they kind of get a bit caught with the spit coming round, so it could just be navigational error."
Pilot whales up to six metres (20 feet) long are the most common species of whale seen in New Zealand waters.
Last month 24 died after stranding near Cape Reinga in the far north of the country.
In December 2009, more than 120 whales died in two separate beachings at Farewell Spit and Colville Bay in the North Island.
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New Zealand rangers put down stranded whales
Wellington (AFP) Jan 21, 2011
New Zealand wildlife rangers put down 10 pilot whales stranded in a remote New Zealand bay Friday after reluctantly determining there was no way to save them, conservation officials said. The whales were the surviving members of a pod of 24 found early Friday trapped in mud and mangroves at Parengarenga Harbour, 320 kilometres (200 miles) northwest of Auckland, the Department of Conservation ... read more
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