WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- At least 145 pilot whales that were stranded on a New Zealand beach have died, conservation officials said Monday.
- Two pods of whales were found about a mile apart on Mason Bay, Stewart Island, a sparsely populated island in southern New Zealand.
- The incident is one of a series of recent whale strandings in New Zealand which has an average of 85 stranding incidents a year.
More than 140 pilot whales stranded on a remote beach in the southern part of New Zealand have died. Conservation officials said that two pods of whales were found about a mile apart on Mason Bay, Stewart Island.
On Saturday evening, a hiker discovered the beached whales and immediately alerted the authorities. Officials found half of the whales already dead while the other half were later euthanized, New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DOC) reported.
Ren Leppens, an operations manager for the DOC on Stewart Island, said that the remote location and condition of the remaining whales made it impossible to save them.
“Sadly, the likelihood of being able to successfully re-float the remaining whales was extremely low,” Leppens said in a statement. “The remote location, lack of nearby personnel and the whales’ deteriorating condition meant the most humane thing to do was to euthanize.”
The DOC also said that they are closely working with a local Maori tribe for the dismantling and burying of the remains of beached whales in accordance with indigenous traditions.
Saturday’s incident is only one of a series of recent whale strandings in New Zealand. Ten pygmy killer whales were discovered stranded on Ninety Mile Beach the following day. Two have since died and the other eight were saved by the combined efforts of officials and local residents.
According to the DOC, it responds to an average of 85 stranding incidents every year, mostly involving single marine mammals instead of entire pods.
The reason why whales and dolphins become stranded are not completely understood. Factors being considered include “sickness, navigational error, geographical features, a rapidly falling tide, being chased by a predator, or extreme weather,” the DOC’s issued statement read.
About 400 pilot whales were beached in Golden Bay last year. It was believed to be the third largest mass stranding in New Zealand’s history.
The largest mass stranding took place in 1918 when approximately 1,000 whales stranded themselves on Chatham Islands.