photo by Chagai (Wikimedia Commons)

Rescue volunteers in New Zealand are attempting to save 15 pilot whales that washed up on the remote Karikari Beach on the northern tip of the country’s North Island.

A total of 73 whales were stranded and so far 58 of them have died. A member of New Zealand’s Department of Conservation stated that the pilot whales probably beached themselves at night, which delayed their discovery and the rescue effort.

From an Associated Press report:

New Zealand frequently sees several mass whale strandings around its coastline, mainly each summer as whales pass by on their migration to and from Antarctic waters. Scientists have not been able to determine why whales become stranded.

The 15 surviving whales are said to be in poor condition, but volunteers hope that they can be moved with the help of heavy equipment and then refloated in a nearby sheltered bay. Each 1.5-ton specimen requires the attention of at least 5 people.

From an article in the Telegraph:

The country has one of the world’s highest rates of whale standings, according to the Department of Conservation. Since 1840, more than 5,000 standings of whales and dolphins have been recorded around the New Zealand coast.

See the below video from ITN News:

Pilot whales stranded on New Zealand beach

Additional resources:

Telegraph blog – The birth and death of whales