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Rescuers to refloat 100 beached whales

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 10/02/2017
Pilots whales that stranded themselves in the Farewell Spit in 2011. © AP Photo Pilots whales that stranded themselves in the Farewell Spit in 2011.

Rescuers will attempt to refloat 100 pilot whales from a remote New Zealand beach on Saturday morning.

More than 400 pilot whales beached themselves on Farewell Spit in the South Island on Thursday night with 300 dying.

Volunteers refloated about 100 whales on Friday before 50 again became beached later in the day according to Department of Conservation community ranger Kath Inwood.

Inwood said volunteers then found 100 whales on the beach on Saturday morning and were now keeping them company until another refloat attempt could be made on the high tide.

"There were about 80-to-90 on the beach yesterday and another 10 or so came back in overnight," she said.

"There will be a refloat effort at about 11.30am and we will know the outcome of that around 2pm."

Conservation charity Project Jonah, local volunteers and DOC staff are assisting in the rescue efforts.

Mass beachings are not uncommon at Farewell Spit, where it is believed the gently shifting sandy beaches may not be picked up by the whales' echolocation.

Thursday's event is the third-largest recorded in New Zealand since data started being collected in the 1800s.

About 1000 whales beached themselves on the Chatham Islands in 1918 and 450 in Auckland in 1985.

The current environmental crisis comes almost exactly two years after nearly 200 pilot whales were beached on Farewell Spit.

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