15 whales die beached in NZ, 33 coaxed to sea



The 48 pilot whales stranded on Saturday at Port Levy on South Island, but scores of volunteers joined Department of Conservation workers to refloat them off the shallow, muddy inlet, said the department's community relations manager, Grant Campbell.

It was the third mass stranding on the New Zealand coast this summer. Some 125 pilot whales died in the two other beachings, while 43 were returned to the ocean.

Campbell said that in the latest incident, residents were quick to help after spotting the whales apparently feeding in the inlet before they stranded. "It's a very, very shallow bay in Port Levy, very muddy, so whether they were chasing food and got caught in the shallows, we don't know," he told reporters.

Whales in the pod were up to 17 feet (5 meters) -long, while a few calves were between 3 feet (1 meter) and 5 feet (a meter and a half) -long, Campbell said. Local Ted Howden said the pod stranded twice. Residents helped the whales back out to open waters Saturday, but by this morning they were all back on the beach, he told TV One News.

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