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16 February 2017, 01:09 | Candice Butler
NINA HINDMARSH FAIRFAX NZ
More than 70 per cent of the whales died after the stranding
Whale rescue organisation Project Jonah said the discovery was made when volunteers returned to the beach at first light today.
According to New Zealand-based marine-focused charity Project Jonah, the country has one of the highest rates of strandings in the world, and pilot whales are the most likely to fall victim to the epidemic.
The spokeswoman asked volunteers to come by 10am, ideally in wetsuits, to help with the refloat at high tide at 11am.
The pod of whales is understood to have beached on Thursday night.
The mass stranding of whales on a remote beach in New Zealand has taken a turn for the worse as 240 more arrived. About three-quarters of the pilot whales were already dead when they were found Friday morning at Farewell Spit at the tip of the South Island.
But it sometimes happens because the whales are old and sick, injured, or make navigational errors particularly along gentle sloping beaches.
"There are about 50 [refloated] whales [remaining] offshore, but they're not looking great out there, just milling around", he said last night.
A member of the dolphin family, pilot whales use echolocation to get around, and if that ability is disrupted it could also lead to a stranding.
The conservation department said it had received a report about a possible stranding on Thursday night, but did not launch the rescue operation until Friday morning as it was too risky to attempt a rescue in the dark, reported the New Zealand Herald.
It was New Zealand's largest known whale stranding since 1985, when 450 were stranded in Auckland, and the third largest on record.
Farewell Spit which is about 150 kilometres (95 miles) west of Nelson, a tourist town, has in the past decade seen at least nine mass strandings of pilot whales, although the latest is by far the largest in number. In February 2015, an operation to save 200 pilot whales that were beached in the same area of Farewell Spit was carried out, but did not prevent the majority from dying.
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