145 Whales Wash Ashore and Die in Massive Beach Stranding

Up to 145 pilot whales have died in a mass stranding on a New Zealand beach, according to the country’s Department of Conservation (DOC.)

According to a statement, two separate pods were beached about 1.2 miles apart on Stewart Island—also known as Rakiura—which lies just off the South Island,

The whales were first discovered by a hiker who was camping in the area. After coming across the animals on Saturday night, he walked to a nearby field base to report the stranding.

But when conservation officers arrived, half of the animals were already dead. Unfortunately, the officers decided to euthanize the other half because of their poor condition and the remote, difficult-to-access location on the island—which is home to just under 400 people.

“Sadly, the likelihood of being able to successfully re-float the remaining whales was extremely low,” DOC Rakiura 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 euthanize. However, it’s always a heart-breaking decision to make.”

“You feel for the animals, it’s just a really sad event,” Leppens, told Associated Press. “It’s the kind of thing you don’t want to see. You wish you could understand the reasoning why the whales strand better, so you could intervene.”

Capture Up to 145 pilot whales have died in a mass stranding on a New Zealand beach. New Zealand Department of Conservation

Marine mammal strandings are a relatively common occurrence on New Zealand’s beaches, with the DOC responding to an average of 85 incidents a year—most of which involved single animals.

It is not completely understood why whales and dolphins become stranded but factors can include sickness, navigational error, geographical features, a rapidly falling tide, being chased by a predator or extreme weather.

In fact, the incident involving the 145 pilot whales was not the only stranding event to occur in New Zealand over the weekend.

Twelve pygmy killer whales were found stuck on Rarawa Beach—located on the east coast of the North Island. Four of the animals have died but local marine mammal charity Project Jonah hopes that the remaining eight can be re-floated and are asking for help from volunteers.

In addition, a 50-foot sperm whale beached in Doubtless Bay on the North Island around 3 p.m. local time on Friday. However, it sadly died overnight.

Last year, around 300 whales died on a beach in the northwest of the South Island in what was the one of the country’s largest recorded stranding events.

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