Almost 500 ballheads died in New Zealand

The Department of Conservation said 232 whales had stranded on Tupuangi Beach on Friday last week and another 245 on Monday in Waihere Bay.

None of the stranded whales – that is, none of the ones that were still alive – could be put back into the sea. The respective ballheads got to the beaches of the Chatham Islands, which have only about 600 inhabitants and are located roughly 800 kilometers east of the main islands of New Zealand.

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Science and schools

New Zealand authorities stated that rescue was not possible due to the remoteness of the archipelago – also because there are many sharks in the waters around the Chatham Islands.

“Due to the risk of shark attacks on both humans and cetaceans, the surviving puffins were euthanized to prevent further suffering,” explained government adviser Dave Lundquist. “Such a decision is not taken lightly, but in cases like this it is the best option,” he said.

The action was “heartbreaking,” said Daren Grover, general manager of Project Jonah, a non-profit group that helps save whales.

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Science and schools

The deaths come two weeks after about 200 cetaceans died in Australia after the animals became stranded on a remote Tasmanian beach.

A common occurrence in this archipelago

In the Chatham Islands in particular, strandings are not uncommon. Scientists have no idea what causes it. According to one of the theories, cetaceans get lost on the shoals because of a parasitic disease that attacks their brain and makes it impossible to properly orientate in space. It is also speculated that they chase prey until the last moment, protect sick individuals or escape from predators.

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Science and schools

Bottlenose dolphins belong to the dolphin family. With a length of up to six meters and a weight of around four tons, they belong to the smaller cetaceans.