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Volunteers are fighting to save hundreds of beached whales in New Zealand

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Volunteers in New Zealand managed to refloat about 100 surviving pilot whales on Saturday and are hoping they will swim back out to sea after more than 400 of the creatures swam aground at a remote beach, according to the Associated Press.

In total, more than 650 pilot whales have beached themselves along a 3 mile stretch of coastline over two days on Farewell Spit at the tip of the South Island. About 335 of the whales are dead, 220 remain stranded, and 100 are back at sea.

What's next?

Department of Conservation Golden Bay Operations Manager Andrew Lamason said they are sure they're dealing with a new pod of roughly 240 whales, because they had tagged all the refloated whales from the first group and none of the new group had tags.

Volunteers are planning to return Sunday to help refloat as many healthy whales as they can.

Volunteers rush to save hundreds of pilot whales stranded on a remote beach in New Zealand.

What causes whale strandings?

Theories include: chasing prey too far inshore, trying to protect a sick member of the group, or escaping a predator.

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of whale strandings in the world, and Friday's event was the nation's third-biggest in recorded history. The largest was in 1918, when about 1,000 pilot whales came ashore on the Chatham Islands.

Pilot whales grow to about 7.5 meters (25 feet) and are common around New Zealand's waters.

--The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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