From: Associated Press
Published March 2, 2005 12:00 AM

Seven Rare Whales Found Dead on New Zealand Beach

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — The carcasses of seven rare Gray's beaked whales have been found on an isolated northern New Zealand beach where they apparently were stranded, the Conservation Department said Wednesday.


The four adults and three calves likely became stranded on Waikuku Beach on North Island at least a week before conservationists found them, the department said in a statement


The department has never before recorded a mass stranding of this many Gray's beaked whales on mainland New Zealand, ranger Niki Conrad said in the statement.


Patrick Whaley, the agency's biodiversity program manager, said whale strandings were common in the area but until now had involved only one or two of this species. Scientists still don't understand why or how such strandings occur.


Samples of the whales are to be sent to the nation's main museum, Te Papa in Wellington, for analysis, as very little is known about the species, he said. Gray's beaked whales are now rarely seen alive in New Zealand's waters.


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About 80 to 85 pilot whales get stranded on New Zealand's coasts every year, and there is usually about one mass stranding of the species a year. In 1985, 450 pilot whales became stranded on Great Barrier Island off North Island's east coast and rescuers successfully refloated 324 of them.


Source: Associated Press


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