WELLINGTON, New Zealand – More than 140 pilot whales died after being stranded in southern New Zealand. Half were killed by conservation workers in a "deeply sad" decision after their discovery came too late to save them, the authorities said.
The stranding in an isolated part of Stewart Island off the coast of the South Island was the largest in New Zealand since 250 pilot whales died in one of the worst incidents in the country's history last year.
The stranded whales on Stewart Island were discovered in two separate groups or pods, just as several whales were reported nationwide over the weekend.
Ren Leppens, manager of the department for the island, said the walker He went two to three hours to inform the conservation staff. Half of the whales were already dead when Rangers reached the two pods, and the rest were euthanized.
"It is deeply sad," said Leppens, who may have stranded the whales early on Friday. He was "covered with sand" when they were found. Bad weather meant that experts could not be flown in to assess the situation. So the only option was to lull her to sleep, he said.
Mr. Leppens said the beach was the site of three previous mass starvation. More than 300 whales stranded near Mason Bay in 1998.
The Department of Conservation said the events would be accepted if whales made navigation errors by hunting prey, escaping predators or trying to protect sick members of the group, but more than one factor could help.
Last February, 250 whales died after hundreds were stranded at Farewell Spit, one of New Zealand's most abundant whale-watching sites. They died after 500 rescuers tried desperately to get the animals back on track.
Krista Hupman, a marine mammal biologist at the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research in New Zealand, said the whaling groups are keeping a close eye on Farewell Spit and are ready to call rescue teams at short notice as the animals seem to be swimming towards the coast.
"But without these first sightings, we're out of luck," she said, pointing to the seclusion of stranding at Stewart Island home for only 402 people.
On the other side of the country, rescuers at Ninety Mile Beach, near the northern tip of the North Island, delayed efforts to rerail eight stranded minke whales until Tuesday due to inclement weather. Since Monday, four whales have died on the beach. Two other whales have beached elsewhere in New Zealand, officials said.
The Department of Conservation said the deaths are "unlikely" and Ms. Hupman, the whale biologist, said beaching in New Zealand was common at that time of the year.
Although it is known that New Zealand has an unusually high number of whales, the scientists did not know why they were so frequent, the reasons for this or whether the reintegration of the animals was the best answer
Mr. Leppens, Operations Manager at the Department of Conservation, said the remote location meant the whales on the beach should be left behind by the whales to "decompose" and "let nature take their course".
19659002] "The sooner technology can rush forward and give us a better idea of why this happens, the better," he said.