Published: Tue, November 27, 2018
Global | By Craig Ferguson

Whales euthanised after mass beaching on NZ's south island

Whales euthanised after mass beaching on NZ's south island

Up to 145 pilot whales were found stranded on a remote beach on Stewart Island, also known as Rakiura, in New Zealand, late on Saturday, November 24.

A hiker alerted authorities on Saturday night about the situation of the whales, who were stranded in Mason Bay in two separate groups about two kilometers apart, a Department of Conservation of New Zealand release said.

DOC Rakiura operations manager Ren Leppens said half of the whales had already died and the decision was made to euthanise the rest due to the condition they were in and the remote location where they were stranded.

A Department of Conservation (DoC) spokeswoman said that they were among 145 whales which died after becoming beached on Mason Bay, Stewart Island.

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.

The stranding of marine mammals is a relatively common phenomenon on New Zealand's shores, according to a statement from the DOC.

Awarua Rūnanga Dean Whaanga said it was a sad event, especially given the large number.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, 10 pygmy killer whales were found stranded at Ninety Mile Beach on the North Island. More than one factor may contribute to a stranding. In 1998 more than 300 whales beached themselves at the spot.

Marine mammals are frequently stranded on New Zealand's coasts and the average number of operations carried out by environmental officials is about 85 per year, majority to save these animals individually.

Possible reasons include sickness, navigational errors, geographical features that confuse the animals, fast-falling tides, being chased by predators or the effects of extreme weather.

Whangarei Harbour, Mahia Peninsula and the Chatham Islands were also prone to strandings.

Pilot whales strand in their hundreds because their social bonds make them reluctant to leave even one member of their family behind, Prof Slooten said.

DOC has notified Ngāi Tahu of the Mason Bay stranding and is working with the iwi on what to do next.

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