Some 145 pilot whales have died after a mass stranding on a beach on Stewart Island in New Zealand.

The pilot whales were discovered by a walker late on Saturday 24 November, but by then, half of the whales washed up on Mason Bay were already dead, and the authorities had to euthanise the remainder as it would have been too difficult to try and get them back in the water.

“Sadly, the likelihood of being able to successfully re-float the remaining pilot whales was extremely low,” explained Ren Leppens of the regional Department of Conservation (DOC).

“The remote location, lack of nearby personnel and the whales’ deteriorating condition meant the most-humane thing to do was to euthanise. However, it’s always a heart-breaking decision to make.”

It was a bad weekend for whales in New Zealand, as elsewhere a 15-metre sperm whale and a pod of 12 pygmy whales were also beached. Four of the latter were dead, but efforts to save the remaining eight by local marine mammal charity Project Jonah were continuing as we went to print.

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