New Zealand is home to more than half of the world's whale species, with 42 species and two subspecies in its waters. Also nearly half of the world's dolphins and porpoises live off the coastline.
In the first week of February of this year, 416 pilot whales had beached themselves overnight at Farewell Spit in Golden Bay at the top of the South Island in New Zealand, with more than 70% dying by the time dawn broke on Friday. Golden Bay is conducive to strandings because of its shallow bay, which made it difficult for whales to swim out once they have entered.
The reasons for whales strandings are still unclear, but it is thought a combination of factors contribute, with old, sick and injured whales being particularly vulnerable. Whales, dolphins and porpoises rely on sound for navigation, foraging, and communication, so military sonar and other human-made sounds can cause whales to beach. Getting trapped in fishing gear or colliding with ships can also injure and disorient whales, extreme weather and getting trapped in low tides can also force them inshore.
But unlike humans, whales have to think about each breath they take. When they are sick or injured they come to shore where they can rest without having to fight to stay at the water's surface. Social species, like pilot whales, work together. They often call out to one another in distress and more come to help, also getting themselves into trouble.
What can we takeaway from this tragedy that we can apply to our own life? Human beings are also social creatures. Most of us like to be around the company of our family, friends, and work colleagues for companionship and emotional support. We have cultivated a support system around us to encourage us, help us when necessary and to tell the truth to us even when we don't want to here it.
You cannot truly support others if you are barely keeping yourself just above water. So remember to take time to care and rejuvenate yourself and be kind to yourself.