145 whales ‘inexplicably’ die on remote New Zealand beach

145 whales ‘inexplicably’ die on remote New Zealand beach

As many as 140 pilot whales died after becoming stranded on Mason Bay on the west coast of the island.

A walker discovered the carcasses lining the shore at Mason Bay on the island, 60km south of Invercargill, on Saturday, The New Zealand Herald reported.

Leppens said the whales were half buried in sand and not in good health, indicating they had been there for perhaps a day before they were found. Authorities said half of the whales had already died by the time they were found.

The "heart-breaking" decision to euthanise around 70 pilot whales on Stewart Island at the weekend was "not taken lightly", Department of Conservation (Doc) staff say.

Whale strandings are quite common in New Zealand and the Department of Conservation responds to around 85 of them every year.

Two died but there will be attempts to re-float the others as soon as they can be gathered more closely together, something that will increase their chances of survival.

However, the reason for strandings of whales and dolphins is not fully understood said the DOC.

"It happens sometimes.in days of old they would have harvested them [for whale oil]".

It was unknown whether the large number of strandings was due to the high number of mammals in New Zealand or the environment, she said.

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Pilot whales lie beached at Mason Bay, Rakiura on Stewart Island, New Zealand.

Over the weekend, more whales lost their lives on New Zealand beaches, including a female pygmy sperm found on Ohiwa and a 15-metre male whale.

Grover said there was usually at least one "significant" mass stranding a year.

Mass strandings are much rarer.

Several factors can cause strandings, such as the whales trying to escape predators, falling ill or navigating incorrectly.

Stewart Island's population is extremely low, even in the peak of summer, meaning there are "very few people to keep an eye on the shore".

Research is now underway at Massey University looking at whether refloating pilot whales is the best thing for them or if pushing them back into the water was doing more harm.

The DOC also announced that it was working with a local Maori tribe on the "next steps".

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