Photo credit: Tim Cuff AP
Tragedy struck this past week when pod of 198 Pilot Whales stranded themselves on the coastline of New Zealand’s South Island.
Initial Response to the Stranding
Rescuers promptly responded and moved the animals back out to the ocean during high tide. Hope were high, initially. In fact, New Zealand has one of the world’s best stranding networks. Volunteers are at the ready to help distressed animals and keep them hydrated while they were stranded on the coastline.
After the first high tide efforts rescuers were hopeful, then …
140 Pilot Whales Die in the Mass Stranding
Rescuer’s efforts to float the whales back out to sea were to no avail. Most of the whales came back and stranded themselves again. As of this writing 140 of the 198 Pilot Whales have perished in this mass stranding.
The amazing rescue teams onsite have been doing everything in their power to help these whales. However, they have been crippled by the lack of all the equipment and facilities necessary to care for stranded and injured marine mammals.
There Are No Whale or Dolphin Rehabilitation Facilities in New Zealand
In a country where there are over 300 whale and dolphin strandings a year, there are no facilities in New Zealand that can rescue, rehabilitate and release and injured whales or dolphins. In fact, last year there was a petition circulating advocating for the creation of a rehabilitation facility for stranded whales in New Zealand.
That petition for a marine mammal hospital was met with fierce criticism from animal activists. The Whale and Dolphin Commission spoke out against rehabilitation centers, essentially saying death is a better option than an animal rehabilitating in human care for a period of time.
While New Zealand law allows for rehabilitation facilities, the cost of operating a facility is incredible. Currently there are no organizations in New Zealand that have the resources to open a rehabilitation facility.
This means some of the whales that could have been saved will perish on the beaches, because there is no facility that can provide the needed care.
Thank You To The Volunteers
We want to thank the incredible volunteers and rescue workers who have been working night and day to help these animals.
We’re fortunate to have incredible rescue and rehabilitation facilities operating along the US coastline. We here at AwesomeOcean wish New Zealand had all the resources whales and dolphins have in the US.