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Farewell Spit pilot whales strand again

Sunday 19 Jan 2014 7:17 a.m.

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Nearly 50 pilot whales have re-stranded on Farewell Spit, frustrating efforts by experts and hundreds of volunteers to steer them back out to sea.

The Department of Conservation says 48 whales were stranded at Triangle Flat, near the base of the spit, about 6:30pm today, after spending a few hours out in Golden Bay.

They will be cared for until dark by around 40 volunteers and it is expect the whales will refloat on the incoming tide.

DOC rangers will look for the whales at daybreak tomorrow.

"It is unsafe to attempt to refloat whales in darkness," DOC spokeswoman Trish Grant said.

DOC rangers, Project Jonah volunteers and others have been trying over the weekend to refloat the dozens of whales.

The pod of about 50 had spent a few hours in Golden Bay this afternoon, before they re-stranded.

That was despite eight whales, which had stayed close to the shore, being put down to prevent them causing the bulk of the pod to re-strand.

Today, 40 whales were refloated, 30 swam further out to sea but 10 whales hung back swimming parallel to the coastline. They then re-stranded. The other whales at sea then headed back to shore, also re-stranding on Farewell Spit.

About 100 volunteers have assisted in caring for the whales and refloating them, many of them trained Project Jonah volunteers.

A total of 71 whales were found on the beach this morning, including eight dead, spread over 1.6km.

This morning, 53 whales stranded, including 13 which died.

The whales are believed to be part of the same pod seen off Taupata Point, south of Farewell Spit, on Tuesday. Later that day, 13 whales stranded on the spit - none of which survived.

Pilot whales regularly become stranded on Farewell Spit. On January 6, 39 whales stranded there and died or were put down.

NZN

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