Nearly 500 whales killed in two mass strandings in remote Chatham Islands


In New Zealand’s remote Chatham Islands, approximately 500 pilot whales have experienced two mass strandings with zero expected survival.

Project Jonah, which specializes in marine mammal protection and conservation, reported a second mass stranding of approximately 250 pilot whales on Pitt Island on October 10.

This was about 40 kilometers south of where 215 pilot whales ran aground on 8 October.

The Chatham Islands’ secluded beaches are known to be home to great white sharks, posing a danger to those trying to salvage the whales and the whales themselves.

Dead whales and whales with open wounds can attract great white sharks and other predators to the area, increasing the risk of shark attack to anyone attempting to surface.

This means that stranded whales that are still alive when found on the island are always euthanized by New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DOC).

“These mass strandings are tragic events and we always hope that the surviving whales can take off, but this was not an option here,” Project Jonah wrote. Facebook post After the first stranding. “At this time, our thoughts are with the DOC rangers and the community.”

Epoch Times photo
Volunteers tend to a mass stranded pilot whale in Farewell Spit, New Zealand, February 11, 2017. (Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images)

Whale strandings in the Chatham Islands are not uncommon. Pilot whale stranding records are the largest recorded on these islands, involving an estimated 1,000 whales in 1918.

DOC Media Advisor Brian McDonald Said Stuff the news that whales are left to decompose naturally.

“This decision is never taken lightly, but in cases like this, it’s the kindest option,” he said.

Pilot Whales Are Known For Stranding

Moreover websitethe DOC describes pilot whales as “prolific strands,” and this behavior was poorly understood.

“Most scientists believe that individual whales are stranded because they have contracted disease and are nearing the end of their natural lifespan,” the DOC said.

“Another theory points to the highly sociable behavior of pilot whales: if one whale gets lost and gets stranded, a pod mate may swim up to help.”

The current stranding comes about four weeks after another stranding occurred in the southern Australian island nation of Tasmania.

A pod of 230 pilot whales washed up on Tasmania’s west coast, and rescuers were able to resurface all 35 surviving whales.

The remaining carcasses were disposed of in long lines in deep water.

The Chatham Islands are located about 850 kilometers east of New Zealand’s main islands and have a total population of about 800.

The second largest island in the Chatham Islands, Pitt Island has a population of 40.

Rebecca Chu


Rebecca Zhu is based in Sydney. She focuses on the national politics of Australia and New Zealand. Any tips? Please contact her at [email protected].