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Marine mammal strandings prove again and again to be deadly and unexplainable incidents for these beautiful animals. Recently, the danger of this peculiar phenomena manifested itself at a huge scale on Farewell Spit in New Zealand. Two mass strandings left more than 650 pilot whales washed out on the shore! Tragically, over 350 of them died as it was impossible to save them in time. It was one of the worst whale strandings in the history of New Zealand.

The first stranding left around 400 whales on the remote beach. On January 10, 2017, the animals were found by Cheree Morrison, a magazine writer and editor, who then alerted the authorities. Sadly, by the time help showed up, over 270 of the whales were already dead. The scene was heartbreaking – as Morrison reports, the distressed whales sounded like they were crying, especially the young ones.

But this tragic story has an unexpected beautiful side to it – immediately, hundreds of people, including locals and tourists, farmers and teenagers, together with the volunteers from Project Jonah, rushed to help the remaining 140 whales.

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The action taken was truly incredible – groups of people formed a human chain in the water to prevent the whales from swimming back to the beach. They also kept the stranded animals cold and damp, and poured water over them. The Department of Conservation reported that about 500 volunteers took part.

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The next day, volunteer rescuers had to leave the beached whales. But when the volunteers came back to the beach the following morning, miraculously, they found only seventeen whales still on the beach. The rest disappeared. A tide came at night and the majority of the animals were able to rescue themselves and swim out to the sea.

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The seventeen whales that remained on the beach were refloated by the amazing volunteers. The action, however, is not over yet – the beach has to be monitored in case some of the animals are stranded again.

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Mass strandings are still, to some degree, a mystery – experts propose many reasons why they happen, but it is still impossible to know if we can do anything to make them less frequent.

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The volunteer rescue group Project Jonah who led the rescue urgently needs help – due to the long and taxing refloating action, the organization needs to replace the equipment and gear that was destroyed.

Click here to donate to this wonderful organization and make sure they will be able to continue saving lives.

All image source: Project Jonah/Facebook

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