Rescuers admit defeat

SARAH DUNN
Last updated 13:00 16/01/2014

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Volunteers, Golden Bay residents and Department of Conservation staff have worked hard to keep a pod of eight whales alive since Tuesday, but today they admitted defeat when the animals beached themselves for a third time.

DOC conservation services manager John Mason said euthanasia was now the best option for the whales, which were stressed and suffering. The chances were very low that they could be successfully rescued.

"We have done all we can to help these whales but there is only so much we can do for them. We also need them to help themselves in swimming safely out to sea."

Thirteen pilot whales, a mixture of juveniles and adults, stranded on Farewell Spit on Tuesday. Five had died, but DOC staff and a group of around 60 volunteers stayed with the remaining eight whales until they could be refloated at dusk.

Yesterday morning, DOC staff returned to find the pod had beached itself again.

Mr Mason said the second refloating had technically been successful, but all eight whales had refused to swim out into deeper water once they were in the sea.

They stayed parallel to the shore until nightfall, when the DOC rangers who had prevented them from re-approaching the shore went home.

Mr Mason said when he arrived back on the scene around 6.30am today the whales had stranded for a third time near the base of Farewell Spit.

They were joined by a ninth whale from a different pod.

"We assessed their behaviour over the last 48 hours and their physical condition, which had deteriorated.

"The whales had become stressed, they were actually twitching and shaking."

He said euthanising them humanely would relieve their suffering, saying the drug would be administered this morning by a trained DOC worker.

"In making [the decision to euthanise] I'm very conscious of all the tremendous effort that the volunteers have put in over the last few days, and that it's come to nothing."

Mr Mason said it was a mystery why the whales chose to re-beach themselves.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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