A large group of around 145 stranded whales was found on a beach on Stewart Island in New Zealand. A local walker came across the scene and reported it to the authorities. By the time authorities hit the scene, half of the whales were dead.
Due to the magnitude of washed up whales, the other half were too difficult to rescue. This forced authorities to make the difficult decision to euthanize the remaining pilot whales. Unfortunately, due to the island’s small population, no one noticed the event until a day after it happened, which was too late.
Sadly, this is not the first time a whale has washed up on a beach.
Australia Has a High Frequency of Mass Whale Beaching
While scientists may not know the exact reason why whales beach themselves, they do know it happens a lot in Australia. A phenomenon of equal size happened in Australia back in March. It may not be a pleasant accolade, but Australia is definitely a hot spot for beached whales.
Why Couldn’t They Be Rescued
While beached whales are not uncommon in Australia, rescuing them is difficult. In this case, the discovery of the whales was the biggest factor. The mass whale beaching is believed to have occurred a day before they were discovered.
Whales cannot live out of water for very long, which explains why so many of them were already dead. Apart from this, due to bad weather conditions and the remoteness of Stewart Island, specialists could not travel there on such short notice.
This made euthanization the most humane thing to do.
Why Do Whales Beach Themselves
While it is normal for killer whales to intentionally beach themselves to hunt seals on beaches, not all whales hunt in this manner. So that begs the question, why do whales beach themselves? Unfortunately, there is no real answer that has supporting evidence.
While there may not be an answer yet, that doesn’t mean there are no theories. Whales appear to wash up in the same areas or types of areas. This signifies that this may be a natural occurrence where whales get tricked into thinking they are in deeper water.
Sadly, we do not currently have the technology to properly determine the cause and until that day comes, we can only help the whales we find.
Are Humans Involved in This Phenomenon
Many like to quickly blame human activities as a reason why whales beach themselves. While it is true our activities have caused climates to change, there is no evidence that it is due to humans. Beached whales have been a normal occurrence for hundreds of years.
However, that does not mean it is not possible for humans to be responsible in some way. There are many theories that blame military sonar devices that confuse whales, but there is no evidence that supports this theory.
How to Help a Beached Whale
Why we might not know why it happens, we do know how to help. Whales cannot live on land. They will die, and every second counts. The first thing that you need to do when you find a beached whale is to contact the local authorities. After this, there isn’t much you can do.
While waiting for these authorities to come, try to pour buckets of water over the whale, but be very careful. Do not pour water over or into the whale’s blowhole. This will actually drown the mammal. Why is pouring water so important?
While the whale is lying on the beach, its skin is being dried out by the sun. This will lead to the whale dying even faster. Do not attempt to push the whale in without the authorities. Remember whales are protected in the United States by the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).