Pilot whales strand on Chatham Islands

In total 97 pilot whales and three dolphins died in the stranding which was notified to DOC staff at 12:30 pm on Sunday.

DOC Biodiversity Ranger Jemma Welch said due to the remote location and a power outage making it difficult to contact people, it was 3 pm by the time rangers arrived at the scene at Waitangi West Beach.

“Only 26 of the whales were still alive at this point, the majority of them appearing very weak, and were euthanised due to the rough sea conditions and almost certainty of there being great white sharks in the water which are brought in by a stranding like this.”

A further two whales had stranded by Monday morning when a team of DOC staff made a follow-up visit to the site, which also had to be euthanised (included in the total count).

Hokotehi Moriori Trust and Ngāti Mutunga o Wharekauri Iwi Trust were notified and representatives joined DOC staff on Sunday where they performed a karakii/karakia to honour the spirit of the whales, which will be left to decompose naturally.

Mass strandings are reasonably common on the Chatham Islands with up to 1000 animals dying in a single stranding in 1918.

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