Around half a thousand pilot whales have died stranded on New Zealand’s remote Chatham Islands, the government said on Tuesday, after ruling out a rescue mission because of the multitude of sharks in the area.
Two large groups of these cetaceans, also known as pilot whales, stranded on two different islands in this archipelago, around 250 on Friday and around 240 three days later, the government’s Department of Conservation said.
The location’s remoteness from New Zealand’s two main islands and the presence of sharks made a rescue mission impossible, so the survivors were euthanized, he added.
“Due to the risk of shark attack to humans and pilot whales, the survivors were euthanized by our team to prevent further suffering,” Dave Lundquist, a government technical adviser, told AFP.
The remains will be left on site to decompose naturally.
Mass strandings are not unusual on these islands. In 2017, one of almost 700 copies was produced.
Scientists do not fully understand the reason for these incidents, but some researchers believe that groups of cetaceans are lost after coming too close to the coast to feed.
Despite their name, pilot whales are a cetacean in the dolphin family. They can grow up to six meters and are very sociable, so they come to the rescue of companions who have drifted away from the group.
Last month, almost 200 pilot whales stranded on the Australian island of Tasmania, of which 44 were rescued.