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34 whales die in New Zealand stranding

By David Barber

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Volunteers renewed efforts Tuesday to save about 40 survivors of a pod of 99 pilot whales stranded on a remote beach at the top of New Zealand’s South Island.

They found another 12 whales had died overnight when they returned to the beach on Farewell Spit in the morning. Volunteers were forced to leave when night fell because it was too dangerous to remain in the dark. Twenty-two of the creatures died after beaching on Monday.

Department of Conservation ranger Nigel Mountford told Radio New Zealand that 26 whales managed to refloat themselves during the night and were swimming in shallow waters about two miles offshore but there was a risk that they could head inland again to join the survivors.

Department workers and volunteers planned to try to refloat the surviving animals on the morning’s high tide.

Whale strandings are not uncommon on the 15-mile-long sandspit, a wildlife refuge at the northwestern extremity of the South Island.

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