Stranded Whales Euthanized In New Zealand

Conservation officials said Sunday that 28 pilot whales had died after a mass stranding on a remote New Zealand beach, north of Mason Bay.

Alerted by a hiker, Department of Conservation (DOC) employees, who reached the place an hour later, found nine whales dead at West Ruggedy Beach in the northeast on Stewart Island, an official said.

He said as wild seas and strong winds made it impossible for the DOC employees to rescue the 19 survivors; instead, they were forced to euthanize the mammals, which would otherwise have suffered immensely.

"They were in reasonably good health when we got there but the weather conditions were so bad it would have been far too dangerous to try anything else," he said.

"If there was a chance, we could have saved them, we would have given it a go--but not in those conditions," he said, adding: "We could either euthanize the whales, or leave them to suffer on the beach for two days. We didn't have any other option."

Whale-beachings are not uncommon on Stewart Island, with almost 160 dying in the last major stranding in 2003, and the fourth mass stranding on the New Zealand coast in recent months.

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