Mass Whale Stranding in New Zealand Leaves 150 Dead


Staff member
Mar 9, 2013
The Shire
3 groups of up to 150 pilot, pigmy and sperm whales have died after becoming stranded on beaches in New Zealand

A group of up to 145 pilot whales have died after becoming stranded on a beach on Stewart Island in New Zealand.

The animals were discovered by a walker late on Saturday, strewn along the beach of Mason Bay.

Authorities said half the whales had already died by then, while the other half were put down as it would have been too difficult to save them.

In separate incidents, 12 pygmy whales and a sperm whale also beached in New Zealand over the weekend.

'A heart-breaking decision'

The pilot whales were beached in two pods about 2km (1.2 miles) apart on a remote beach on Rakiura or Stewart Island off the coast of South Island.

"Sadly, the likelihood of being able to successfully re-float the remaining whales was extremely low," Ren Leppens of the regional Department of Conservation (DOC) said in a statement.

"The remote location, lack of nearby personnel and the whales' deteriorating condition meant the most humane thing to do was to euthanise."

"However, it's always a heart-breaking decision to make."

'The night I found 145 stranded whales'

"It was the worst night of my entire life." That's how Liz Carlson describes finding 145 whales beached and dying on a remote New Zealand beach.

The travel blogger from the US was on a five-day hike on the Rakiura or Stewart Island with a friend when they came across the tragic scene.

What would otherwise have a been a beautiful long stretch of deserted beach was the site of a desperate struggle for life.

Almost 150 pilot whales, beached in the low tide, were fighting in agony in the gentle surf.

"It was one of these jaw dropping moments," she told the BBC. "We came to the beach around sunset and spotted something in the shallows.

"When we realised it was whales, we dropped everything and ran into the surf."

She'd seen whales in the wild before, she said, but "nothing can prepare you for this, it was just horrific".

'The futility was the worst'

The two immediately tried to find some way to help, to push the whales back into deeper water.

"But you quickly realise that there is nothing you can do. They are just too big.

"The futility was the worst," she said. "They are crying out to each other and are talking and clicking and there's no way to help them."

"I'll never forget their cries, the way they watched me as I sat with them in the water, how they desperately tried to swim but their weight only dug them deeper into the sands," she wrote on Instagram.

"My heart completely broke."