New Zealand Whale Stranding Kills 36, Threatens 40

Published January 24, 2012 12:27AM (EST)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A mass-stranding of whales on a New Zealand beach has left 36 of the creatures dead and threatens 40 more.

Department of Conservation area manager John Mason says that 99 pilot whales stranded themselves Monday on Farewell Spit on the South Island. By Tuesday, 36 whales had died and another 40 were still in danger after remaining in shallow water.

Mason said conservation staff and volunteers had successfully refloated the other whales, which had swum out to deeper water.

Pilot whales grow to about 20 feet (6 meters) and regularly strand themselves in large numbers during the New Zealand summer months.

Experts describe Farewell Spit as a whale trap due to the way its shallow waters seem to confuse whales' ability to navigate.

By Salon Staff

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