On Saturday, a hiker discovered two pods of pilot whales beached on New Zealand’s Stewart Island. All 145 of the whales died; the whales that did not die on their own were euthanized because of their poor health.
Now, less than one week later, another 50 pilot whales have perished after becoming stranded on a different New Zealand island.
According to the country’s Department of Conservation (DOC), officials learned that 80 to 90 pilot whales were stranded on the shore of New Zealand’s Chatham Islands on Thursday night. Unable to reach the animals that night, the DOC sent rescuers to the area at the “first light” of Friday morning.
“When staff arrived at the scene approximately 30 – 40 pilot whales had re-floated themselves and returned to sea, however 51 whales remained. All were dead but one. A decision was made to euthanize this whale, due to its very poor condition,” the DOC wrote in a release on the incident, adding that the decision to euthanize the one living whale was “difficult,” but ultimately the most humane choice.
Now, the DOC is working with Moriori imi and Ngati Mutunga iwi (local native tribes) to hold a proper burial for the dead whales. The same gesture was made for the 145 whales that died on Stewart Island last week.
In the release, the DOC reports the reasons why whale strandings happen aren’t “fully known,” but “sickness, navigational error, geographical features, a rapidly falling tide, being chased by a predator, or extreme weather” can all play a part in a tragic event like this.
The DOC took skin and blubber samples from the pilot whales beached on Chatham Islands to study in an effort to get more answers.