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Authorities Made A "Heartbreaking Decision" After over 140 Whales Beached Themselves

New Zealand Department of Conservation

Officials say up to 145 pilot whales died on an island in New Zealand last weekend, after stranding themselves on a beach.

A hiker at Mason’s Bay on Stewart Island (Rakiura) was the first to spot the terrible event on Saturday, and walked more than two hours to warn the island’s conservation staff.

Two pods of whales seem to have taken part in the mass beaching, with their groups landing more than a mile apart.

Whale stranding
Rescue workers euthanized half the whales, saying it was too late to save them.New Zealand Department of Conservation

While workers from New Zealand’s Department of Conservation were called, more than 75 of the whales had died by the time they arrived.

A representative says the department made the “heartbreaking decision” to euthanize the remaining whales, because the beach’s remote location ruled out a rescue operation.

"Sadly, the likelihood of being able to successfully re-float the remaining whales was extremely low," said Rep Leppens, the island’s operations manager.

Whales are thought to drive themselves onto beaches to avoid predators, or out of sickness and confusion.

Leppens guessed from the condition of the whales that they had already been beached for a day or longer by the time they were found.

Wildlife experts say that whale strandings are common on New Zealand, but not in such large groups.

Most of the country’s 85 yearly whale strandings feature just one animal, according to the Department of Conservation.

New Zealand whale stranding
In 1998, a group of more than 300 whales beached themselves at the same location.New Zealand Department of Conservation

More than 250 whales died in another large-scale stranding on the country’s South Island last year, despite the work of more than 500 animal rescuers who worked to "refloat" them in the ocean.

Very little is understood about whale groundings, and experts can’t even agree if pushing stranded whales back out to see is the best response.

[H/T: Fox News, The New York Times]

We're thankful for the rescue workers who did everything they could for these whales.

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