A group of up to 145 pilot whales have died after becoming stranded on a beach on Stewart Island in New Zealand.
The animals were discovered by walkers late on Saturday, strewn along the beach of Mason Bay.
Authorities said half the whales had already died by then, while the other half were put down as it would have been too difficult to save them.
In separate incidents, 10 pygmy whales and a sperm whale were also beached in New Zealand over the weekend.
‘A heart-breaking decision’
The two pods of pilot whales were beached about 2km (1.2 miles) apart from each other on a beach on Rakiura or Steward Island off the coast of South Island.
They were first spotted by a camper hiking in the remote area.
“Sadly, the likelihood of being able to successfully re-float the remaining whales was extremely low,” Ren Leppens of the regional Department of Conservation (DOC) said in a statement.
“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.”
The DOC said in a statement that whale strandings are not uncommon in New Zealand and that there are about 85 incidents a year. In most cases though, it’s just a single animal that is beached, not a whole pod.
It’s not fully known why whales or dolphins strand, the agency said. Possible reasons might be sickness, navigational errors, falling tides or being chased by a predator.
Also over the weekend, 10 pigmy whales were stranded at the northern tip of North Island, two of which died while there are hopes that the remaining eight can still be rescued and refloated.
On another North Island beach, a 15-metre sperm whale died on Saturday morning.