At least fifty-one pilot whales have been killed in another mass stranding in New Zealand just less than a week after killing 145 whales at Mason Bay on Stewart Island, an official said.
Around 80-90 whales were stranded overnight on the remote Chatham Islands and more than 50 per cent has since died, says the Department of Conservation (DOC).
Locals living nearby the coastal area alerted the department, however, staff were unable to assess the situation in the dark.
When staff returned in the morning, they found up to 40 of the whales had re-floated themselves but another 50 had died on the beach. The one beached whale which remained alive was euthanized due to its poor condition, it said.
"Sadly, the likelihood of being able to successfully re-float the remaining whales was extremely low. The remote location, lack of nearby personnel and the whales' deteriorating condition meant the most humane thing to do was to euthanise,” DOC Chatham Islands Operations Manager Dave Carlton said.
“You feel helpless because there's nothing you can do, says one of the locals, adding “There was quite a lot of blood in the water."
Meanwhile, the conservation department is working along with locals to bury the dead whales where it was stranded.
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Marine mammal strandings are a relatively common occurrence on New Zealand’s shores with DOC staffs responding to an average of 85 incidents in a year, however, mass strandings cases are rare, it said.
The reason why whales and dolphins are stranded on shores are not fully known, however, sickness, navigational error, geographical features, extreme weather or being chased by a predator could be some of the factors, said the official.
The Chatham Islands sit about 800 kilometers (500 miles) east of New Zealand’s main islands and are home to about 600 people.
(With inputs from agencies)