Monday, December 28, 2009

whales strand again and again

Pilot whale strandings occur with disarming frequency. From Stuff
"Hundreds of locals, holidaymakers and Conservation Department staff worked for hours to keep the pilot whales hydrated after 63 beached at Colville Beach about 5am yesterday.
Groups of volunteers were assigned to tend to individual whales."
I have worked all day to try and save pilot whales. There is no doubt that that experience changes people. It could be that it is a realistic diversion away from the fantasy of xmas and holidays. It could be worlking with others to do something worthwhile or it could be that being close to a beautiful animal, who is suffering and upset, and helping them or at least trying to help them, is good for us. But why?

IMO it is because we realise during these events that we are part of nature. The whales themselves are not too big, their eyes are amazing and they make similar sounds to humans who are not well. When you are near one you cannot help but recognise the similarities and connection.
"A pod of 105 long-finned pilot whales, calves and adults were found beached at the eastern tip of the spit on Boxing Day. None of them survived.
The stranding site was at Bush End Point, near the lighthouse.
The whales had been there for a couple of tides and had been out of the water for a long time. "It has been quite hot and they were very distressed. You could see the pain and suffering in their eyes."
These animals would have been insane with suffering. And up there - no chance for help or assistance.
Four DOC staff were called to the site and shot the surviving whales, DOC Golden Bay biodiversity programme manager Hans Stoffregen said. "It was horrible but nothing could have been done to save them. It was the most humane thing to do."
Because the site was in a natural reserve, the whale carcasses were left where they stranded, to decompose."
I have taken tourists out the spit and every now and then there would be the remains of a decomposing whale on the beach and guess what? We would stop and have a walk around it, I would explain about the decomposition process and why the animals are left alone. The flies, the smell, the visuals all left indellible impressions on the tourists. This is also part of conservation. The more we can understand the more we can be part of the solutions.

Why do whales strand?

No one knows but some theories, such as pollution, a sick animal that others follow, disorientation from weather or noise from the multitude of propellors in the water, sonar giving distorted returns due to sand or all of the above, flight from a predator like an orca, probably have a ring of truth to them.

In the days before europeans, when the whales stranded the people would gather their tools and head out for harvesting. There are many middens along farewell spit that show the activity associated with rendering whales. Pilot whale bone is not so good for carving, but the meat and oil would have been very welcome.

If you get a chance to save some whales I encourage you to go for it. It is good for you, good for the planet and good for the whales.

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