Some 125 pilot whales died in New Zealand after stranding on beaches over the weekend — but vacationers and conservation workers managed to coax 43 others back out to sea.
Rescuers monitored the survivors as they swam away from Colville Beach on North Island's Coromandel peninsula, and by Monday morning they were reported well out to sea.
Department of Conservation workers and hundreds of volunteers helped re-float the 43 whales at high tide. The volunteers covered the stranded mammals in sheets and kept them wet through the day.
"Some 63 pilot whales stranded ... but it looks pretty good, we've got 43 live ones," Department of Conservation ranger Steve Bolten said as the pod swam out to sea, The Associated Press reports.
The Department of Conservation's Golden Bay manager John Mason believes the animals had been there for about two days. He says staff went out as soon as they heard of the sighting, but a third were already dead and the rest had to be shot.
Mr Mason says there is always a jump in whale beachings at this time of year.
Further north, DOC staff are monitoring Colville Bay on the Coromandel Peninsula to make sure the pod of dolphins which refloated yesterday after beaching, are not heading back.
Twenty one of the 63 dolphins did not survive the stranding and are being buried by local Maori, Newstalk ZB reports.
DOC spokeswoman for the area, Lyn Williams said none of the whales had returned to the beach overnight.
"Last they were seen they were swimming healthily out to the ocean," she says.
Sadness at the death of so many whales was tempered by the birth of a baby calf on Monday about an hour after the pod was re-floated. Experts monitoring the whales say the baby was swimming well as the pod headed out to sea.
There were tributes for the whales who remain as the local iwi offered blessing and on lookers said their final farewells.
Local iwi say the whales are now at peace buried facing the sun and their spiritual ancestors, TVNZ informs.
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