21 Dec 2005 00:56:31 GMT
WELLINGTON, Dec 21 (Reuters) – Hundreds of volunteers, including tourists, struggled on Wednesday to save around 120 pilot whales stranded on a beach at the top of New Zealand’s South Island.
In New Zealand’s biggest whale beaching in 12 years, 19 whales had died since the pod were stranded on Tuesday on Puponga Beach, about 150 km (93 miles) northwest of the city of Nelson, local media reported.
Volunteers washed the whales with water, trying to keep them cool and prevent their skin drying out. They hoped to try and refloat the whales, some five metres (15 feet) long, on the next high tide, around 2 p.m. (0100 GMT).
Conservation ranger Simon Walls said no one knew how the pod had got stranded, but it had occurred in the area in the past.
“The shallow shelving beach, the spit and the configuration of headlands seems to cause navigation problems for them. These conditions seem to trigger strandings,” Walls told the Nelson Evening Mail newspaper.