Collateral Damage of the Data Deficient

Over 400 Pilot whales beached themselves  in New Zealand. These Intelligent creatures know the topography of their habitat enough to miscalculate the tide. The reason behind this mass stranding is unknown, but it is most likely man made. We can assume this because it has been very well documented that active sonar used by the navy and seismic airguns blasting by oil company exploration has been noted to be the cause of many similar strandings. with many conservation groups, they had managed to save about 100 of the 400+ whales, but this is still the worst stranding in new Zealand history. About 75% of the 416 pilot whales were already dead when they were found at the tip of the south island. This area is known as an area to confuse whales and has been the site of many mass strandings.  Most likely while looking at these whales you will find ruptured ear canals, and brain hemorrhaging similar to bends. After learning this we can assume that this area is supposed to be a place of escape and an area for them to find refuge from the human impacts of technology such as the deafening sounds which can disorient these creatures. Although the answers for the reason of this mass stranding is unknown, we can easily trace is back to something unnatural or human created.



About the Pilot Whale

Pilot whales are cetaceans which belong to the Delphinidae Family, which means that they are actually dolphins and are among the largest of the oceanic dolphins, beat in size only by the Orca whale. There are two species of the pilot whales, the long-finned pilot whale and the short-finned pilot whale. The two species are not easily distinguishable in the sea, but an examination of their skulls tell the difference. Pilot whales range worldwide. the long finned prefer the colder climates, and the short finned species thrives in the tropical and subtropical habitats. The primarily eat squid and fish, and just like the Orca again, they are highly social animals , with a similar maternal based pod.

Vocalization if pilot whales comes from echolocation. They emit clicks for foraging, and whistles and burst pulses as social signals within pods. while the creature is more active, the vocalizations become much more complex, while less active creatures emit simple vocalizations. There are differences within echolocation of the two species, the Long finned seem to have a relatively low frequency, with a narrow range, and the short finned make tonal calls, the number of calls, and the length between them will decrease with the depth. This means that the water pressure surrounding them, affects the energy of the calls. When in stressful situations, such as a stranding, the whales will emit shrills, and plaintive cries while are variations within their vocalizations.


Out of all of the cetaceans, the pilot whales are the most common stranders. This is due to the strong social bonds that the species keeps within pods. Single stranders are almost never recorded unless they were dead previous to the stranding. One theory of these mass group strandings can be explained by how the species use magnetic fields for navigation, they seem to become confused by geomagnetic anomalies or they may also be following a sick, elder member of their group, or a member with high importance . Most members within group stranding are healthy individuals.

“However big the whale may be, the tiny harpoon can rob him of life” 






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