Trapped on a coastal barrier, 49 dolphins were found Monday morning on the beach, a few hours later, at least nine were already dead.
The New Zealand authorities were mobilized on Monday to try to save dozens of “pilot dolphins” trapped on a coastline in the far north of the South Island, a place where groups of pilot whales often run aground.
The Department of Conservation (DOC) said the 49 mammals were discovered Monday morning on Farewell Spit, a sandy tongue 90 kilometers north of the town of Nelson.
By mid-afternoon Monday, at least nine pilot whales were dead and around 60 people were working to keep the others alive in the hope that they could return to sea with the tide, DOC said.
“Specialists in marine mammals will participate in refloating operations and their care on the beach, trying to keep them in an atmosphere of freshness and humidity,” said a spokesperson for DOC.
Farewell Spit is a 26-kilometer-long spit of sand jutting out into Golden Bay.
It has been the scene of around ten cases of group strandings of pilot whales over the past 15 years. In February 2017, nearly 700 of these mammals had stranded at Farewell Spit, including 250 that had perished.
There is no certain scientific explanation for this phenomenon.
There are hypotheses about disease, navigation errors, the presence of predators, extreme weather conditions or problems related to the topography of certain places.
But others implicate human activity, and in particular disturbances generated by high frequency sonars.
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