Published: Tue, November 27, 2018
Global Media | By Derrick Guzman

145 pilot whales die in mass stranding in New Zealand

145 pilot whales die in mass stranding in New Zealand

More than 70 pilot whales have been put down after two pods were found stranded on a remote New Zealand beach.

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.

Whale rescue group Project Jonah's spokesman Daren Grover said pygmy whales are a tropical breed and it's very rare to see them in New Zealand waters.

In 2011, a pod of 107 pilot whales was found beached at Mason Bay by two tourists.

About 75 were already dead and conservation workers chose to euthanise the others due to their poor condition and remote location.

The DOC chose to euthanize the remaining whales, DOC manager Ren Leppens said.

"It's always a heart-breaking decision to make", he said.

The DOC said in a statement that whale strandings are not uncommon in New Zealand and that there are about 85 incidents a year. The remote location, lack of nearby personnel and the whales' deteriorating condition meant the most humane thing to do was to euthanise.

The DOC said the two events were unlikely to be related.

"Large numbers of pilot whales have been stranding for as long as we know", Russell Leaper, Whale Researcher at the International Fund for Animal Welfare, told ABC News.

But there is still hope for most of the 10 pygmy killer whales stranded on 90 Mile Beach, at the northern end of the country.

Grover said there was usually at least one "significant" mass stranding a year. In 1998 more than 300 whales beached themselves at the spot. It's believed strandings can be caused by a number of factors, such as the whales trying to escape predators, falling ill, or navigating incorrectly.

Ren Leppens on the Stewart Island stranding.

However, conservation officials note that these should not be confused with natural whale traps, such as the one at Farewell Spit, where whale strandings have been noted for centuries.

"What we do find with nearly every stranding, there's more than one reason. sometimes we can put it down to a combination of four, five, even six different factors that may have led to the stranding".

Pilot whales have a reputation for stranding, thought to be partly due to their preference for steep landforms and sloping underwater areas, which may interfere with their sonar.

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