Featured Image Credit: Rex Features
Nearly 650 whales were stranded over the weekend in South Island, New Zealand. The mass stranding is the 3rd largest stranding in the nation’s history. The first superpod of about 400 pilot whales landed on the beach in the early hours of Friday morning, with a second wave of over 200 whales stranding on Saturday.
Thanks to nearly 500 volunteers that poured onto the saddening scene ASAP with buckets and blankets, almost 300 pilot whales were quickly refloated and rescued. The team had to form human chains and work tirelessly in between the shifting tides.
Currently, the three mile coastline of Farewell Spit is tragically covered with the remaining whales that met there fate. Unfortunately, the next question is… what do you do with all of the deceased cetaceans?
Well according to DailyMail, Authorities are combing the beach in protective clothing and cutting into the whales with knives and needles. Some say that the act mirrors “popping a balloon” because the internal gasses have been building up to extremely high pressures. The “popping” of the pilot whales is to prevent the potential for “exploding” whales.
For health and safety measures, the Department of Conservation (DOC) cordoned off the bodies and strongly urged the public to call if they find that whale carcasses have floated off the beach and washed up on nearby shores. The statement from the DOC specifically said, “The area is currently closed to the public because of the risk from whales exploding.”
It could take several months for the pilot whale bodies to fully decompose.
Andrew Lamason, the director of the Department of Conservation, described the scene as “macabre.”
While at first towing the bodies out to sea was strongly suggested, this plan has been rethought. Officials want to prevent the gaseous carcasses from washing up on other bays and beaches. As of now, the plan is to use a digger to move the dead whales to a private nature reserve that is off the shore, in the dunes and off limits to the public.