Monday, 3 December 2018

New Zealand whales: Why are so many getting stranded?

By Gareth EvansBBC News

30 November 2018

The pictures are striking: dozens of whales lie stranded on an idyllic beach in a remote part of New Zealand.

The group were found by a walker on Stewart Island earlier this week. And just a few days later, a further 51 pilot whales died after becoming stranded on a beach on the Chatham Islands.

While whale strandings are not uncommon, they usually involve just a single animal rather than a whole group. The recent flurry of mass strandings has brought a renewed focus on the mysterious, and rare, phenomenon.

So why does it happen? While the exact reasons remain unclear, experts say many different factors could play a part.
Sickness and injury

"Quite often animals that turn up on a beach are getting exhausted, they're malnourished, or they haven't eaten because they're ill," says Dr Simon Ingram, a Professor of Marine Conservation at the University of Plymouth.

"They can be in the final stages of being ill or die at sea and end up getting washed up on a beach," he adds.

But Dr Ingram says that sickness or injury mainly plays a part when a single animal is found stranded.

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