More than two dozen whales have died in a mass stranding on a New Zealand beach known as a death trap for ocean giants, rangers said Friday.
The Department of Conservation said 29 long-finned pilot whales were already dead when the group of 34 marine mammals were discovered at Farewell Spit on the South Island on Thursday evening.
Department spokesman Dave Winterburn said rangers were providing care to five survivors, but noted “the whales have now been out of the water for some time.”
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“While this event is unfortunate, whale strandings are a natural occurrence,” he said.
“The cause of this grounding is not known.”
Farewell Spit, a 26 kilometer (16 mile) sand hook jutting out into the sea, has been the scene of more than 10 pilot whale strandings in the past 15 years.
The biggest was in February 2017, when nearly 700 of the mammals washed ashore, killing 250 people.
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Scientists don’t know why the beach is so deadly. One theory is that the spit creates a shallow seabed in the bay which interferes with the whales’ sonar navigation systems.
Pilot whales, the most common whale species in New Zealand waters, are particularly susceptible to mass strandings.
The whales, which are up to six meters (20 feet) long, are regularly found stranded in large numbers.