Around 145 pilot whales died after they became stranded on a remote beach on Stewart Island in New Zealand, with half of them put down by authorities.
In separate incidents, another 13 whales were also stranded on beaches on the continent.
A walker along the beach on Saturday was greeted by an unbelievable sight – up to 145 pilot whales stranded and strewn along the shoreline of Mason Bay.
The whales were breached in two separate groups, about 1.2 miles apart. The area is known as Rakiura or Stewart Island off the coast of South Island, New Zealand.
Pilot whales belong to the dolphin family and are also known as blackfish. They are the largest of oceanic dolphins, and are only exceeded in size by the killer whale. Male pilot whales can reach 23.6 feet in length and weigh 5000 pounds, with females reaching 18 feet and weighing nearly 3000 pounds.
By the time authorities had discovered the whales, nearly half of them had already died. Authorities were forced to make a heartbreaking decision to put the mammals down after assessing that trying to save the whales would have been too difficult.
“Sadly, the likelihood of being able to successfully re-float the remaining whales was extremely low,” Ren Leppens of the regional Department of Conservation said in a statement, adding, “The remote location, lack of nearby personnel and the whales’ deteriorating condition meant the most humane thing to do was to euthanise.”
At the northern tip of North Island, in New Zealand, 12 pygmy killer whales were also found stranded on the beach. Authorities were able to keep eight of the whales alive and released a statement that they are moving them from Ninety Mile Beach on the west coast to Rarawa Beach on the east coast, where conditions are calmer and a stream will provide an overnight safe hold for the mammals. They plan to re-float the whales on Tuesday and are calling on volunteers for assistance.
In another separate incident, a 50-foot sperm well also breached in New Zealand over the weekend but did not survive.