Up to 145 whales die after mass stranding in New Zealand

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption Almost 150 whales die in mass stranding

A hiker on a New Zealand island stumbled upon a distressing sight this weekend: dozens of pilot whales, dead on the beach after getting stranded there.

According to a Department of Conservation (DOC) spokeswoman, the whales were discovered by walkers late Saturday, scattered along the beach of Mason Bay. Half of the whales were already dead.

Two separate pods were found, beached about 1.2 miles apart along the shoreline.

A Department of Conservation (DoC) spokeswoman said that they were among 145 whales which died after becoming beached on Mason Bay, Stewart Island.

"It's always a heart-breaking decision to make".

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

All of the 145 pilot whales that stranded themselves on a remote New Zealand beach have died. "The remote location, lack of nearby personnel and the whales" deteriorating condition meant the most humane thing to do was to euthanise, ' he said. Four of the animals have died but local marine mammal charity Project Jonah hopes that the remaining eight can be re-floated and are asking for help from volunteers.

However, the reason for strandings of whales and dolphins is not fully understood said the DOC.

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A series of whale strandings occurred over the weekend in New Zealand, but the incidents are so far thought to be unrelated.

Ren Leppens on the Stewart Island stranding.

It is the third case of whale strandings in New Zealand in the last week with 10 pygmy killer whales stranded at Ninety Mile Beach and a 15m sperm whale at Tokeroa Beach.

Research is now underway at Massey University looking at whether refloating pilot whales is the best thing for them or if pushing them back into the water was doing more harm.

However, conservation officials note that these should not be confused with natural whale traps, such as the one at Farewell Spit, where whale strandings have been noted for centuries.

There are a number of factors that can cause whale strandings.

DOC has notified Ngāi Tahu of the Mason Bay stranding and is working with the iwi on what to do next.

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