Tuesday, January 10, 2006

6 Pilot Whales beached between Foxton and Waitotara, New Zealand

Dead whales washed up
By LAUREL STOWELL laurel.stowell@wanganuichronicle.co.nz
DOWNWIND of a dead whale the stench can be pretty powerful. Conservation Department staff and beachgoers have been discovering this on the Wanganui coast and beyond. Six whales have beached on the coast between Foxton and Waitotara during the past few days.

There was one at Foxton, one at Himatangi, two at Turakina Beach, one just north of Kai Iwi Beach and another near Waiinu.

There is speculation the deaths may be linked to a pod of 49 pilot whales that beached at Farewell Spit on New Year’s Eve. Some died and the rest were shot to end their suffering, because they could not be saved.

Their bodies had been blown off the spit by around January 3.
One piece of evidence linking that stranding with recent finds is that the whale found at Foxton had a bullet hole visible near its blowhole.

Yesterday the Chronicle accompanied DoC staff to two long-finned pilot whales that stranded about 1.6km south of Koitiata during the past few days.

Vivienne McGlynn, DoC’s Palmerston North biodiversity manager, said the two 4m whales were dead when they were washed ashore. Both had large bites taken out of their undersides, probably by sharks or killer whales.

The male whale looked whitish because he had lost most of his skin. His penis was sticking out – a rare sight for human eyes.

The sex of the other whale wasn’t known, and it still had most of its skin.

The two whales would be buried further up the beach this morning. Before that Maori who were authorised by Rangitikei iwi Ngati Apa would be able to take bones or teeth for carving.

South Taranaki iwi Nga Rauru should be asked for permission to take material from whales beached from Kai Iwi northward.

Samples taken, dead whales buried
10 January 2006

The Department of Conservation (DOC) yesterday took samples and measurements from two pilot whales that washed up dead at Turakina Beach and then buried them.

DOC biodiversity manager Vivienne McGlynn says a total of four whales have washed up on area beaches during the past few days and the department believes all are from the pod that beached at Farewell Spit at the top of the South Island a little over a week ago. "They were dead when they washed up and we think they had been attacked by sharks or perhaps orcas after they'd died," she says.

Mrs McGlynn says the department does not know the cause of the deaths. "Some of the whales refloated at Farewell Spit were perhaps not strong enough to survive and may have died at sea."

DOC took samples of teeth and skin, which will be sent to Auckland University. Measurements and other information will go to the national museum Te Papa.

Mrs McGlynn says whales are protected under the marine Mammals Act and it is illegal to take any part of the animal, even when it is dead.

There is a hefty fine for anyone taking any part of a whale illegally, she says. "There are proper procedures and people can talk to the appropriate iwi."

Mrs McGlynn says she believes the teeth and bones of pilot whales are not sought after by Maori for carving.

Maori did take pieces of the whale that washed up at Himatangi Beach at the weekend, but the one at Foxton Beach was buried immediately and the two at Turakina have been buried intact, she says.

DOC only buries washed-up whales if they are near human settlements.

"It's quite possible more whales will wash ashore on the beaches in Manawatu and Wanganui and if people see any, we'd like them to ring DOC as soon as possible," Mrs McGlynn says.


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