In Brief

New Zealand whale stranding: 145 dead on remote beach

Conservation officials forced to shoot dozens of dying whales

At least 145 whales have died on a remote beach in New Zealand after becoming stranded on the shore.

The mass stranding of two pilot whale pods occurred on the sparsely populated Stewart Island, off the southern tip of New Zealand’s South Island, over the weekend.

A hiker spotted two groups of beached whales on Saturday evening, lying around a mile apart on the shore of Mason Bay, the New Zealand Herald reports. The bay is located in a remote area, 22 miles from the island’s only settlement.

The walker notified Department of Conservation (DoC) workers, who rushed to the area to find that around half of the whales had already died and the rest were rapidly deteriorating.

Those still alive “were half buried in sand and not in good health, indicating they had been there for perhaps a day before they were found”, the Associated Press reports.

“Sadly, the likelihood of being able to successfully re-float the remaining whales was extremely low,” the island’s DoC operations manager Ren Leppens said.

“The remote location, lack of nearby personnel and the whales’ deteriorating condition meant the most humane thing to do was to euthanise.”

DoC workers shot the remaining whales and said the carcasses would be left where they were for nature to take its course.

“It's always a heart-breaking decision to make,” Leppens said, calling the incident “a really sad event”.

The DoC responds to an average of 85 whale strandings a year on New Zealand’s coastline, the majority involving only one animal.

“Exactly why whales and dolphins strand is not fully known but factors can include sickness, navigational error, geographical features, a rapidly falling tide, being chased by a predator, or extreme weather,” the department said in its report of the incident.

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