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Nearly 100 pilot whales die in mass stranding off New Zealand islands

November 26, 2020 9:26 am
The animals were found on Waitangi West Beach in the Chatham Islands. [Source: BBC]

Almost 100 pilot whales have died in a mass stranding on New Zealand’s remote Chatham Islands.

Conservation officers said they were notified about the incident on Sunday but by the time they reached the location, Waitangi West Beach, few of the animals were still alive.

In total, 97 whales and three dolphins have died.

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It is unclear what caused the stranding on the islands, which are 800km (500 miles) east of New Zealand.

Jemma Welch, a ranger at the country’s Department of Conservation (DOC), said in a statement that 26 stranded animals were put down because of rough sea conditions and the “almost certainty of there being great white sharks in the water which are brought in by a stranding like this.”

The department said that members of the local Moriori and Maori communities performed a ceremony to honour the spirits of the whales. Their bodies will be left to decompose.

Pilot whales are one of the most common species of whale in New Zealand waters, and can grow up to six metres (20ft) in length.

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