New Zealand pilot whales stranding


This video says about itself:

400+ Pilot whales stranded! Farewell Spit New Zealand

10 February 2017

I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to help the remaining living whales. Of course I brought my camera gear to make a movie. It was an extremely sad experience.

As 200 More Whales Are Stranded In New Zealand, Heroics Turn To Heartbreak. February 11, 201710:00 AM ET: here.

Refloated whales beach themselves again as volunteers hold vigil at Farewell Spit. 5:00 AM Sunday Feb 12, 2017: here.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Cetacean tragedy

Saturday 11th February 2017

Fighting today to save the whales, PETER FROST reports on the overnight news from New Zealand where yesterday more than 400 pilot whales came ashore in a mysterious mass stranding

THIS morning local people, vets, conservation volunteers and whale enthusiasts are fighting to save the lives of at least a hundred pilot whales stranded on the ironically named Farewell Spit at the most northern point of New Zealand’s South Island.

More than 400 whales beached themselves here yesterday and three quarters have already died on the beach in what authorities are describing as one of the worst whale beachings they have ever seen. The area seems to confuse whales and has been the site of many previous mass strandings.

New Zealand Department of Conservation (DoC) community ranger Kath Inwood told us that about 300 volunteers had joined conservation workers on the beach today. She said they had refloated the whales at high tide and had formed a human chain to try to prevent them from swimming back ashore.

She said that yesterday volunteers had tried to keep the surviving whales damp and cool by placing blankets over them and dousing them with buckets of water as they waited for the tide to rise. The high tide allowed volunteers one last chance to help the whales before darkness put an end to yesterday’s rescue efforts.

Dawn today saw the volunteers back in action. Ms Inwood said whale strandings occur most years at Farewell Spit, but the scale of this stranding had come as a shock.

Andrew Lamason, the DoC’s regional manager, said it was one of the largest mass beachings recorded in New Zealand.

He said the surviving whales are “being kept cool, calm and comfortable” by volunteers on the beach.

Some of the refloated whales tried to swim back to shore, and the human chain was trying to herd them out to deeper waters, said volunteer Ana Wiles. “We managed to float quite a few whales off and there were an awful lot of dead ones in the shallows so it was really, really sad.”

“One of the nicest things was we managed to float off a couple [of whales] and they had babies and the babies were following,” Ms Wiles added.

New Zealand marine mammal charity Project Jonah which is leading efforts to save the whales told us a total of 416 whales had stranded and most were dead when they were discovered.

Scientists do not know what exactly causes whales to beach themselves.

But it sometimes happens because the whales are old and sick, injured, or make navigational errors particularly along gentle sloping beaches.

Sometimes when one whale is beached, it will send out a distress signal attracting other members of its pod, who then also get stranded by a receding tide.

One theory of the cause of the latest beaching is that the whales’ echo-location systems have been disrupted by joint US and New Zealand naval exercises involving experimental seismic equipment. Authorities have been quick to deny any connection with the mass stranding.

Professor Liz Slooton, of the University of Otago’s department of zoology, told the New Zealand Herald there was a wide range of causes for whale strandings. She said: “Whales may beach themselves because they were sick, dying, giving birth or disoriented.

“While natural causes such as earthquakes and storms could be a factor, human causes, including noise, may lead to a whale beaching itself.”

Slooton added that it was remotely possible but unlikely seismic testing had caused the mass stranding.

Farewell Spit has been described as a whale trap. It has a long protruding coastline and gently sloping beaches that seem to make it difficult for whales to navigate away from once they get close.

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of whale strandings in the world, and this weekend’s event is the nation’s third-biggest ever recorded. The largest was in 1918, when over a thousand pilot whales came ashore on the Chatham Islands.

Many of these incidents happen at Farewell Spit. Experts say its shallow waters seems to confuse whales and hinder their ability to navigate.

In February 2015 about 200 whales beached themselves here, of which at least half died.

The Pilot Whale

PILOT whales fall into two species, the long-finned and the short-finned. The two are not readily distinguishable at sea.
Analysis of the skulls at autopsy is the best way to accurately distinguish between the species.

Size and weight depend on the species. Long-finned pilot whales are generally larger than short-finned pilot whales.

Adults can reach a body length of approximately 21 feet, with males being three feet longer than females.

Their body mass reaches up to 1,300kg in females and up to 2,300kg in males.

Female pilot whales are one of the few mammals besides humans who have a menopause.

Pilot whale mass stranding in New Zealand


This video says about itself:

Rescuers and volunteers were racing to save hundreds of pilot whales in New Zealand’s picturesque Golden Bay on Friday (February 10), after one of the country’s largest recorded mass whale strandings.

Up to 300 whales have died and volunteers are trying to send more than fifty more back out to sea, while trying to keep them as comfortable as possible, local media reported.

Many volunteers have come from around the area to help the stranded whales in whatever way they can.

“It’s amazing, I mean there are people from all over the world, anyone who … has heard about this has just come over. We brought three hitchhikers who just said they wanted to come here and do whatever they could,” said one volunteer.

“Yeah, the water is cold but it’s fine, it’s good to be here and help,” added another.

A conservation department worker noticed the whales washed ashore on Thursday (February 9) evening, but the government agency decided against a night rescue effort for fear volunteers would be injured by the whales in the darkness.

“Yeah, this is third largest mass stranding that we have recorded in our history and so it’s a very large one, logistically it’s a massive undertaking. The whales started stranding last night at around about 10 o’clock last night, we were notified of that and then this morning when they went out and checked on them most of the whales were already dead,” said Auckland University Marine Biologist, Rochelle Constantine.

Local media reported on Friday that volunteers had managed to refloat some of the whales during high tide, but most were quickly restranded as the tide ebbed.

It is New Zealand’s largest known whale stranding since 1985 when 450 were stranded in Auckland.

Whales often get stuck at Golden Bay, a remote but popular holiday area at the top of New Zealand’s south island. The bay’s shallow waters make it difficult for whales to return to deeper water, according to marine life rescue organization Jonah Watch.

Donald Trump, Australia and New Zealand


This TV video from the USA says about itself:

Alec Baldwin mocks Trump and his Australia phone call on tonight’s episode

On tonight’s episode of Saturday Night Live, Alec Baldwin returned to portray President Donald J. Trump in a blistering cold open, skewering all the top stories that plagued the administration this week.

Including Trump’s advisor Stephen Bannon as the Grim Reaper.

By James Cogan in Australia:

Pro-Trump Australian senator splits from Coalition government

7 February 2017

After months of speculation, right-wing and pro-Trump Senator Cory Bernardi formally split from the governing Liberal Party today and announced his intention to form a new party, the Australian Conservatives. At this stage, no member of the parliament’s lower house, from either the Liberal Party or its coalition partner, the National Party, has joined him. The Coalition and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, therefore, still cling to power with a fragile one-seat majority.

Bernardi, 47, has represented the socially conservative Christian right of the Liberal Party since he first entered parliament in 2007. The main issues with which he has associated himself are climate change skepticism, draconian immigration policies, anti-Muslim xenophobia, anti-abortion campaigns, opposition to same sex marriage and calls for the repudiation of anti-discrimination legislation. He was a supporter of former prime minister Tony Abbott, who won the 2013 election against the Labor Party, and an opponent of Turnbull, who became prime minister through an inner-party coup against Abbott in September 2015.

A senator from the state of South Australia, Bernardi was seconded to Australia’s United Nations delegation last year, spending three months in the US during the final stages of the presidential election campaign. He paid considerable attention to Donald Trump’s campaign, particularly the latter’s populist

How many times do I have to repeat that ‘populist’ is the wrong word for politicians like Trump?

appeals to immense political alienation and discontent among some of the most desperate and impoverished sections of the American population and his channeling of such sentiments behind America First nationalism, anti-immigrant xenophobia and right-wing economic populism.

Bernardi returned home vowing to develop a Trump-style movement in Australia. On November 23, he wrote: “[P]olitics in Australia needs to change. My time in the USA has made me realise I have to be a part of that change, perhaps even in some way a catalyst for it.”

Bernardi is acutely conscious of the instability that surrounds the Turnbull government. He has split just days after the now notorious phone call between Turnbull and Trump, when they clashed over Turnbull’s insistence that the new US administration honour a sordid refugee deal that had been earlier made with the Obama administration. In recent days, Turnbull has denied US reports that he agreed to certain quid pro quos with Trump to ensure the deal remained. The alleged “reciprocal” agreements ranged from sending more troops to Iraq to sending Australian warships into Chinese-claimed waters in the South China Sea.

Points of difference had already flared after Trump repudiated the Trans-Pacific Partnership following his January 20 inauguration. Turnbull briefly suggested that the trade pact could continue without US involvement and raised, in meetings with Japanese prime minister Abe, the prospect of including China in a revised TPP—an action that would certainly have been viewed with hostility in Washington.

There is no question that the rifts between Turnbull and Trump have heightened tensions within Turnbull’s government. In June 2010, under conditions of a rift between then prime minister Kevin Rudd and the Obama administration, pro-US factions within the Labor Party orchestrated an inner party coup to oust Rudd and install Julia Gillard.

According to Fairfax media, Bernardi reportedly told Turnbull this morning that a leadership challenge was being plotted against him and that “I want no part of it.”

Given the extent of the factional divisions both within and between the Liberal and National parties, the outcome of any leadership spill would be highly unpredictable and could result in a split of some sorts and the fall of the Coalition government.

Bernardi’s statements today serve to underscore his major concern: to prepare for the collapse of the Coalition and Labor Party-dominated two party system that has prevailed in Australia since World War II.

In his resignation statement to the Senate, he declared: “[T]he body politic is failing the people of Australia and it’s clear we need to find a better way. The level of public disenchantment with the major parties, lack of confidence in our political process and concern about the direction of our nation is very strong. This is a direct product of the political class being out of touch with the hopes and aspirations of the Australian people.”

So-called third parties are now attracting an unprecedented 30 percent of the national vote. While Labor’s former working class base has abandoned the party in droves, right-wing populist formations such as Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, Nick Xenophon’s party and Jacqui Lambie’s party have cut deeply into the traditional voter base of both Liberal and National.

Bernardi has pointed to the fact that more than one million conservative voters have shifted from the Coalition to other right-wing formations. Comments he made last year, however, revealed that he is even more concerned over the prospect of mass anger and alienation taking the form of a left-wing, anti-capitalist movement within the working class and among young people. In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald last December, Bernardi noted that if the Democrats had stood Bernie Sanders, rather than Hillary Clinton, Sanders would have beaten Trump in the election because his anti-capitalist rhetoric appealed to broad layers of the population. The South Australian senator recalled being shown “research that found 50 percent of young Americans believe socialism or communism is a preferable system to capitalism.”

In the period ahead, the danger of war with China will soar as a result of the Trump administration’s agenda, while the deepening economic crisis will intensify pressures on the government to slash taxes and cut public spending.

Bernardi’s objective is to divert the rapidly deepening social disaffection into anti-immigrant demagogy and nationalism, combined with calls for corporate tax cuts, the winding back of social welfare and the slashing of government regulations on business.

According to Bernardi, 60,000 people have indicated “interest” on his “Australian Conservatives” web site. He has also developed relations with significant corporate figures, and is closely associated with Western Australian multi-billionaire Gina Rinehart, who has amassed a staggering fortune on the back of iron ore exports to China. Rinehart has heaped praise on Donald Trump, and called for Australian governments to replicate his pledges of massive corporate tax cuts and of winding back corporate regulation. According to several reports, Bernardi and Rinehart together met with members of Trump’s transition team in December.

Discussions are expected to take place, at some level, during the next several weeks between Bernardi and his backers, and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation.

By Tom Peters in New Zealand:

New Zealand government refuses to condemn Trump’s anti-immigrant bans

7 February 2017

New Zealand prime minister Bill English has repeatedly refused to condemn US President Trump’s ban on people from seven majority-Muslim countries—Syria, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia and Sudan—entering the United States.

Hundreds of thousands of people have protested against the ban in the US and throughout the world, including thousands in New Zealand.

English told Radio NZ that in his first telephone conversation with Trump on Monday he told the president “we don’t agree with the policy, it’s not something we’d put in place.” He described Trump as “warm, civil and very thoughtful”—in an apparent contrast with Trump’s browbeating of Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

While saying he “disagrees” with Trump’s anti-immigrant measures, English has pointedly refused to call the policy “racist.” Asked by a TVNZ newsreader on January 31 if he would denounce Trump’s actions as “horrifying [and] anti-Islamic,” English replied flatly: “In the end [the US] make decisions about their policy.”

Saving kākāpō parrots in New Zealand


This video says about itself:

Clumsy Kakapo: The flightless parrot – Natural World: Nature’s Misfits preview – BBC Two

29 April 2014

Tree climbing is tricky for the kakapo, the world’s heaviest and only flightless parrot.

From BirdLife:

The guardians of the Kākāpō Kingdom

By Kimberley Collins, 12 Dec 2016

Kimberley Collins drops in to Anchor Island, Fiordland, during this year’s busy kākāpō breeding season.

Being a kākāpō ranger is a bit like looking after a celebrity’s child. They’re always in the spotlight and need the utmost care and attention to thrive. This was something I discovered when I visited Anchor Island, in Dusky Sound, earlier this year. We arrived to find rangers from the Kākāpō Recovery Programme had five hand-reared chicks in a holding pen, ready to be released into the wild.

We watched as one of the rangers went into the pen, grunting quietly to lure out the chicks (in their own language), the bush suddenly came alive with movement. Two chicks barrelled out of the trees and waited expectantly at her shoe, making deep grunting noises to catch her attention. She bent down to hand them kūmara (sweet potato), and they started snapping at it blindly, occasionally latching on to her fingers before grabbing a piece and dashing off to feast.

The work carried out by the rangers changes a bit throughout the year, depending on what the birds are doing. This year, they had a breeding season thanks to a major masting event that saw the island flushed with rimu fruit.

Life on the island has been busy. The breeding season is kicked off when male kākāpō create a lek – a system of tracks leading to a shallow bowl. This is where they perform every night for about eight hours. They jostle for a high point that will project their deep, sonic booming call across the valleys, putting enormous effort into performing – for three to four months straight.

When the females are ready to breed, they make their way up the hill and choose who they will mate with. The kākāpō rangers keep an eye on where the males make their lek and watch to see who comes up the hill to mate.

Then they follow the female back to her home range, where she will find a hollow log to lay anywhere from two to three eggs after about 10 days. “With any luck, if we’ve done a good job of monitoring, we will find her on a nest with a full clutch of eggs,” explained Theo Thompson, one of the permanent kākāpō rangers on the island.

Female kākāpō, especially first-time mothers, are known for letting their eggs roll around in the nest, and sometimes they bump together and crack. So the rangers remove the eggs straight away, replacing them with plastic eggs that the female continues to incubate.

The real eggs are kept in an incubator where they can be separated from one another and kept safe. They’re monitored closely and checked for temperature and weight. “They also have to be turned throughout the day so the embryo inside the egg doesn’t get twisted or stuck in a particular position,” explained Theo.

Once they reach the point where they look as though they will hatch, the real eggs are moved back into the nest of a kākāpō mum. The rangers found that, if you simply put a hatched chick in the nest, it can be quite a shock, so they try to introduce a nearly ready to hatch egg so the mother can go through the motions of having it hatch and be ready to care for the chick.

But, sometimes, that doesn’t work out to plan, and a chick will hatch without any warning. In this case, rangers still move the chicks to a nest, but the mothers need time to adjust. “The experienced mums take it all in their stride and start feeding the chick quickly, but this year on Anchor we had no experienced mums so when we put a chick in the nest the mother’s expression was very distinct – imagine a kākāpō’s eyes widen in shock!” Theo said.

Unfortunately the team has had to deal with a few tragedies on the island this year. Being Fiordland, the island can get hit by massive weather bombs. Theo explained: “We didn’t think there was any risk of flooding, but one night there was a flash flood that took out two nests and killed three chicks. It was devastating because you spend a lot of time teaching these mothers how to look after their chicks, but then their nest gets destroyed and it’s all over for them for the rest of the breeding season.”

Nevertheless 2016 has been the best kākāpō breeding season since the recovery programme started 25 years ago. Out of the 47 eggs that were hatched on Anchor Island and Whenua Hou, 32 birds have fledged – increasing the kākāpō population by about 25 percent.

Despite the ups and downs of being a kākāpō ranger, getting such excellent results makes the heartbreak and hard work worth it.

The Kākāpō Recovery Programme

In 1990, Forest & Bird was a founder partner of the Kākāpō Recovery Programme when it was established, alongside the Department of Conservation and Rio Tinto. The programme is a world-class conservation effort that has brought the kākāpō back from the brink of extinction – from a low of just 50 birds two decades ago to 154 this year.

*A version of this story first appeared in Forest & Bird magazine. You can find out more about Forest & Bird, our New Zealand Birdlife Partner, at www.forestandbird.org.nz.

New Zealand whales back after earthquake


This video says about itself:

10 August 2016

Kaikoura is the Whale Watching capital of New Zealand, every Whale Watch tour is a unique experience and the sightings vary. Giant Sperm Whales are the stars of the show and year-round residents. A typical Whale Watch tour may encounter New Zealand Fur Seals, pods of Dusky Dolphins and the endangered Wandering Albatross. Depending on the season you may also see migrating Humpback Whales, Pilot Whales, Blue Whales and Southern Right Whales. Kaikoura often hosts the worlds largest dolphin the Orca and is home to the worlds smallest and rarest marine dolphin the Hector’s. Kaikoura also attracts the largest concentration and variety of seabirds on mainland New Zealand including 13 species of Albatross, 14 varieties of Petrels and 7 types of Shearwater.

By Cate Broughton in New Zealand:

Excitement as first whales seen off Kaikoura coast since earthquake

17:59, November 20 2016

With their distinctive clicks the whales were back.

For Whale Watch Kaikoura general manager Kauahi Nga Pora and two staff, it came as a huge relief.

Using a tracking device called a hydrophone they were able to pick up the sound made by whales.

“We put the hydrophone in and then all of a sudden we heard the clicks… so instantly we knew there was a whale there, so obviously there was a fair amount of celebrating going on just with that.”

Six days after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake a high tide allowed the Whale Watch crew to get their boat out and check on the tahora – the sperm whale Kaikoura is famed for.

About 30 minutes after the clicks they tracked it down and were overcome with emotion, Nga Pora said.

“..the whale came up and it was just.. party time. Just to be right next to the whale after everything that has gone on it was quite, quite emotional actually.”

Nga Pora said he felt deep down the whales would not abandon their home in Kaikoura but with experts and scientists unsure of their response to the disruption of the quake, he was uncertain.

After the first sighting they moved to another location and saw another four whales.

As the group headed back to the coastline they saw seals, Dusky dolphins and birds including albatross, Nga Pora said.

“So that whole canyon environment that has built Kaikoura is still there, so that’s a significant boost to us all.”

There are still huge obstacles ahead before the business can open to tourists again, including access to Kaikoura and repair of the marina, which is now unusable in low tide.

But Nga Pora said seeing the whales had given him the drive to make it work once again.

“So once all those material things are fixed, the fabric and the core of the place is still there so we will be able to charge on and deliver the experience that so many people want to enjoy.”

With many homes destroyed, no water or power and cut off from assistance by road, the business and it’s staff had been in “survival mode”, looking after the people affected by earthquake.

It was not until Sunday, six days later, their thoughts turned to the future and the whales it depended on.

Whale Watch Kaikoura employs between 50-70 people and is the largest employer in the township, Nga Pora said.

“Our fortunes align with the fortune of many people and many rely on Whale Watch to survive.”

Big Christchurch, New Zealand earthquake


This video fom New Zealand 1 Minute After The Christchurch Earthquake – 22 February 2011 – 182 confirmed dead.

From Reuters news agency:

Magnitude 7.4 earthquake strikes near Christchurch, New Zealand; no tsunami warning

Published 40 min ago

An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.4 struck 91km north-north-east of the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, at 11.02 GMT on Sunday (Nov 13), the US Geological Survey said.

New Zealand’s Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management said on its website that the National Crisis Management Centre is being activated.

“We are assessing the situation with the assistance of scientific advisors and Civil Defence groups. Expect aftershocks,” the statement said.

Christchurch is the biggest city on New Zealand’s South Island. A 6.3 quake there in February 2011 killed 185 people and caused widespread damage.

The US Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was no tsunami threat from Monday’s quake.

However: Families warned to flee New Zealand coast ‘immediately’ over tsunami threat sparked by 7.4-magnitude earthquake: here.