Crowds rush to save stranded whales on NZ beach

Pilot whales are regularly involved in mass strandings in New Zealand waters. (AFP pic)

WELLINGTON: About 1,000 people rushed to a New Zealand beach Saturday to try to save a pod of whales that stranded overnight, overwhelming conservation workers who were appealing for specialist assistance.

Three of the short-finned pilot whales had died and an attempt to refloat the surviving seven was to be made on the mid-afternoon high tide at the beach on the Coromandel Peninsula in the North Island.

“Seven whales that stranded at Matarangi Spit are being looked after by as many as 1,000 people,” the marine conservation group Project Jonah said in a statement.

“This is an overwhelming response, and we ask that, unless you are a trained medic, you do not visit the stranding.”

Short-finned pilot whales are closely related to the long-finned pilot whales that are regularly involved in mass strandings in New Zealand waters.

Two years ago, more than 330 pilot whales died in two strandings at Farewell Spit at the top of New Zealand’s South Island.