The Oceanic Whitetip shark lives in the open ocean, far from land in tropical water. Their large pectoral fins allow them to glide through the water and take a break between tail beats, helping to conserve energy. Oceanic Whitetips are bold, opportunistic hunters; largely solitary animals, but are scavengers and will group together in a feeding frenzy if an opportunity of a meal presents itself. These sharks are known to follow pilot whales, researches believe this is because pilot whales are keen at finding squid, a favorite meal for these sharks. Although Oceanic Whitetips tend to lead lonely lives, they often don’t mind the company of pilot fish and remoras. The sharks protect the fish from predators and, in return, the fish clean parasites off the sharks’ skin.
For weeks now, hundreds of pilot whales have stranded on New Zealand’s serene shoreline. More than half of these animals have already died, and dedicated volunteers have been working non-stop for days to save these amazing creatures.
It is estimated that between 600-700 animals have made their way onto the beaches, and over 300 have died.
The reason why whales strand is still a mystery, though scientists do have some ideas. One theory is that oceanic noise pollution messes with the cetacean’s hearing, disorienting them and causing them to beach themselves. Another is that if one individual whale has a problem, such as injury or illness, and is driven to strand, then the rest of the pod will follow. Cetaceans are social creatures, so they will often stick together till the end.
One thing is for certain though: New Zealand’s bay’s are the perfect trap for the whales. Shallow water, closes in areas, there’s no doubt that a cetacean, who could be feeding perhaps, might get stuck there.
This story, however, is not a complete loss. While Anthony Phelps/Reuters
many have died, numerous pilot whales have been re-floated too. In fact, a little over two weeks ago 240 whales from Farewell Spit, a beach that goes from New Zealand’s South Island, managed to get back out during the night when the tide was in and swim off.
Volunteers are still vigilant in their efforts to save these animals and are currently in high alert for any new ones that find themselves trapped on the beach.
PC: Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images and
A new pod of 240 whales swam aground at a remote New Zealand beach on
Saturday just hours after weary volunteers managed to refloat a
different group of whales following an earlier mass stranding.
total, more than 650 pilot whales have beached themselves along a 5
kilometer (3 mile) stretch of coastline over two days on Farewell Spit
at the tip of the South Island. About 335 of the whales are dead, 220
remain stranded, and 100 are back at sea. (AP)
Photo credits: Tim Cuff/New Zealand Herald via AP, Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images (2)
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