Conservation officials in New Zealand reported that a pod of 28 pilot whales died after they became stranded on a remote beach on Stewart Island. It was the fourth time whales have washed onto a beach in the past several months.
The whales were discovered by a hiker at West Ruggedy Beach on February 14th. He contacted employees from the Department of Conservation who reached the beach one hour later. Nine of the whales were dead when they arrived and the other 19 were going downhill fast.
To make matters worse, rough seas and high winds stopped the conservationists from implementing a rescue mission for the surviving whales. In recent months they have been able to save 76 stranded whales, by pushing them back into the water.
Sadly the decision was made to euthanize all of the surviving whales.
Brent Bevan, manager of DOC told The Associated Press, They were in reasonably good health when we got there, but the weather conditions were so bad it would have been far too dangerous to try anything else.
If there was a chance, we could have saved them, we would have given it a go but not in those conditions. We could either euthanize the whales, or leave them to suffer on the beach for two days. We didnt have any options.
In January the outcome for another group of pilot whales was much better. A pod of 33 whales was coaxed from shallow muddy waters by 80 volunteers. They all made it safely out to sea.
Pilot whales are members of the dolphin family and have a similar high intelligence. They are social animals that live in pods of 20 90 whales. Males grow between 15 16 ft long and females are typically around 12ft.
In the past few months, more than 140 pilot whales have died after becoming stranded on various New Zealand beaches. Scientists think they wash on shore as they pass by on their way to breeding grounds in the South Pacific. In 2003 nearly 160 whales died.
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