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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

145 whales die on remote New Zealand beach with dozens euthanised

Up to 145 pilot whales died in a mass stranding in a remote part of New Zealand, with authorities saying they made the "heart-breaking" decision to euthanise dozens that lay stricken on the shore.

The stranding was discovered by a hiker late on Saturday on Stewart Island, 30 kilometres off the southern coast of the South Island.

Half of the whales were already dead and due to the condition of the remaining whales and the remote location, the decision was made to euthanise the remainder.

"Sadly, the likelihood of being able to successfully re-float the remaining whales was extremely low," said Ren Leppens, the Department of Conservation's operations manager on Stewart Island.

It was one of four strandings discovered on New Zealand shores over the weekend which stretched the department's resources.

In the far north of New Zealand, eight pygmy killer whales were taken by truck to the east coast from the west where sea conditions were too rough to refloat them.

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Two of the pod had to be euthanised, but Daren Grover of the marine conservation group Project Jonah said the remainder was saved by taking them by road to the more-sheltered east coast 20km away.

There were two other whale strandings over the weekend in New Zealand, where beachings are relatively common. The conservation department responds to an average 85 incidents a year, mostly of single animals.

A sperm whale which beached in Doubtless Bay died overnight on Saturday, while the body of a dead female pygmy sperm whale was found at Ohiwa on the west coast of the North Island.

Exactly why whales and dolphins strand is not fully known but factors can include sickness, navigational error, geographical features, a rapidly falling tide, being chased by a predator or extreme weather.