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Over 200 Whales in New Zealand Freed From Mysterious Mass Stranding

Feb 13, 2017 01:44 PM EST

Just a few hours after what was considered to be the third largest whale stranding event ever recorded in New Zealand, a different pod of whales mysteriously beached themselves in New Zealand's Farewell Spit.

According to a report from the National Public Radio, over 650 pilot whales beached themselves in Farewell Spit last week. Among the stranded whales, 350 died, including 20 that were euthanized by the officials. Volunteers and officials were able to refloat 100 of the whales, while more than 200 of the whales were rescued by nature itself.

The over 200 that were able to refloat by themselves were stranded just days after what was considered to be the third largest whale stranding event ever recorded in New Zealand. Local authorities and volunteer were surprised when most of the whales in the second stranding were not there when they came back the next morning.

"We had 240 whales strand yesterday in the afternoon and we were fearful we were going to end up with 240 dead whales this morning," said Herb Christophers, a spokesman for the Department of Conservation, in a report from Reuters. Christophers added that the animals were able to free themselves from being stranded as the tide came in, which enabled them to swim out to the sea.

The initial stranding of the pilot whales was first reported by a conservation worker. The worker spotted more than 400 pilot whales in the thin strip of land in Farewell Spit. Most of the whales in this group were already dead when they were found. Volunteers and conservation workers poured water over the beached whales to cool them down and they were able to refloat about 100 of the whales.

Conservation workers were sure that the whales that beached days later belonged to a separate pod. The rescuers noted that they tagged all the rescued whales in the initial beaching. None of the whales in the second stranding had tags.

Although the two stranding events ended on a positive note due to the self-rescued pilot whales, local officials were still left with the grim task of properly disposing of the whale carcasses.

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