Mass stranding leaves 145 whales dead off the coast of New Zealand

145 pilot whales have died after they were found beached on Stewart Island off the coast of New Zealand.

They were discovered late on Saturday evening by a walker.

Half of the whales beached had already died upon the discovery, with the other half euthanised as it was too late to rescue them.

The beached whales were discovered in two separate groups about 2km apart. This is the largest stranding in New Zealand since last year when 250 pilot whales died in one of the worst incidents to happen in the country. A separate stranding of twelve pygmy whales and a sperm whale was also reported in the region over the weekend. Four of the twelve whales have sadly died.

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Ren Leppens of the regional Department of Conservation (DOC) said in a statement, "Sadly, the likelihood of being able to successfully re-float the remaining whales was extremely low. The remote location, lack of nearby personnel and the whales' deteriorating condition meant the most humane thing to do was to euthanise. However, it's always a heart-breaking decision to make."

The DOC also said in a statement that up to 85 stranding cases happen in New Zealand each year but that this is usually one whale and not a group.

The reasoning behind whales beaching is unknown, but the Department of Conservation believes that these events happen when whales make navigational errors while chasing their prey, trying to protect a sick member of their group or escaping predators. However, there is usually more than one factor involved.

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