14 February 2010

probably beached with broken hearts

[click image]

28 whales euthanized after New Zealand stranding
2 hrs 31 mins ago

WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Twenty-eight pilot whales died or were euthanized by conservation workers after a mass stranding on a remote New Zealand beach, an official said Monday.

Department of Conservation workers found nine whales dead on Stewart Island's West Ruggedy Beach on Sunday after they were alerted by a passer-by, biodiversity manager Brent Bevan said.

Wild seas and strong winds made it impossible to mount a rescue for the 19 survivors, he said. Conservation officials were forced to euthanize the animals, otherwise they would have suffered greatly, he said.

"There was no way we could attempt a rescue in those sea conditions," Bevan told The Associated Press. "We could either euthanize the whales, or leave them to suffer on the beach for two days. We didn't have any options."

It was the fourth mass stranding on the New Zealand coast in recent months. Some 140 pilot whales died in the three other beachings, while 76 were refloated by rescuers.

Whale strandings are not uncommon on Stewart Island, the third largest of New Zealand's islands. In 2003 about 160 whales stranded and died there.

Large numbers of whales become beached each summer in New Zealand as they pass through Antarctic waters on their way to South Pacific breeding grounds. Scientists have been unable to explain why it occurs.

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