A hiker camping on remote Stewart Island alerted authorities to the discovery.
More than 140 pilot whales have died on a remote New Zealand beach, the latest in a recent series of whale strandings and deaths in the country.
On Saturday night, the Department of Conservation [DoC] was informed of a large number of whales stranded in Mason Bay on Stewart Island.
A hiker camping in a remote location told authorities about the tragedy, with the number of whales equaling two pods.
DOC Rakiura Operations Manager Ren Leppens said at least half of the whales were dead when personnel arrived on the scene.
“Unfortunately, the probability of being able to successfully re-grease the remaining whales was extremely low. "The remote location, the lack of nearby personnel and the deteriorating condition of the whales meant that the most humane thing to do was euthanize," Leppens said. "However, it is always a heartbreaking decision."
The local Maori tribe, Ngāi Tahu, is now working with the DOC to bless the dead whales and make plans for the burial of the bodies.
Marine strandings are common in New Zealand, and the country is a "hot spot," according to the DOC, responding to about 85 incidents a year, usually involving single animals.
Since 1840, more than 5,000 strandings have been recorded around the New Zealand coast.
According to the DOC, the reasons for whale stranding are not fully understood, but contributing factors can include "illness, navigational error, geographic features, a rapidly falling tide, being chased by a predator or extreme weather."
The Jonah project, a whale rescue group, says New Zealand has one of the highest rates of whale stranding in the world, with an average of 300 whales and dolphins varying each year.
A series of pilot whale strandings occurred over the weekend in New Zealand, but so far the incidents are thought to be unrelated.
Eight pygmy whales remain stranded on a 90-mile beach in Northland, and two more from the same capsule were euthanized over the weekend.
A 15-meter male sperm whale stranded and died in Doubtful Sound on Saturday, while a female pygmy sperm whale died in Ohiwa over the weekend.
Last year, more than 400 pilot whales were stranded in Golden Bay, the largest chain of whales in New Zealand history. Although hundreds of locals participated in a mass civil rescue effort, more than 300 whales were killed.
Original article (in English)