They had hoped to take samples that would help solve the mystery behind the beaching and death of the pod of nine (including one calf) at Te Waewae Bay near Tuatapere last Tuesday night. But by the time researchers reached the carcasses on Thursday, one had been washed away, another partly eaten by sharks and the remaining seven were badly decomposed.
|Stranded orca - 3News|
Orca Research Trust founder Ingrid Visser said the animals - when alive - had been in very good condition. Initial observation of their teeth resembled a pod in the northern Pacific region that fed predominantly on sharks. Visser thinks its possible the pod was hunting sharks in shallow water.
The stranding is only the third such mass stranding of the species recorded here: in 1955, 17 animals stranded at Paraparaumu near Wellington, and 12 stranded in the 1980s in the Chatham Islands. No reason was determined for those strandings.
The nine dead represent 5% of New Zealand's orca population suddenly gone - a major loss.