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Up to 145 whales die in mass stranding incident in New Zealand

Up to 145 pilot whales have died after becoming stranded on a beach in New Zealand, the country’s government said Monday.

The Conservation Department said two separate pods of whales were found on Saturday at a beach on Stewart Island, a remote islet 30 kilometers south of South Island.

(This aerial photo taken by the New Zealand Department of Conservation shows up to 145 pilot whales which became beached on Stewart Island on Nov. 24, 2018.)[Photo courtesy of the New Zealand Department of Conservation]

Half of the whales had already died by the time officials reached the beach and Conservation Department staff chose to euthanize the remaining mammals due to their poor condition and the remote location.

«Sadly, the likelihood of being able to successfully re-float the remaining whales was extremely low,» said Ren Leppens, the department’s operations manager for Stewart Island.

«The remote location, lack of nearby personnel and the whales’ deteriorating condition meant the most humane thing to do was to euthanize.»

Each year, New Zealand responds to 85 stranding incidents on average.

Pilot whales are known to regularly become stranded. However, researchers do not understand their behavior well.

As very social mammals, some scientists believe that when one pilot whale loses its way and becomes stranded, other members of the pod swim to its aid and become trapped themselves.

All — Kyodo News+

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