Fifty-one pilot whales died Friday in another mass stranding in New Zealand, the AP reports, less than a week after 145 pilot whales and nine pygmy killer whales perished in two other, unrelated strandings. In the latest stranding, up to 90 pilot whales beached themselves late Thursday at Hanson Bay on the remote Chatham Islands, the Department of Conservation says. When staff arrived at first light, they found up to 40 of the whales had refloated themselves but another 50 had died on the beach. The department said one beached whale remained alive, which staff decided to euthanize due to its poor condition. The Chatham Islands sit about 500 miles east of New Zealand's main islands and are home to about 600 people.
Last weekend, 145 pilot whales died on Stewart Island. By the time conservation workers arrived there, about 75 of the whales were already dead and they decided to euthanize the others by shooting them due to their poor condition and remote location. Dr. Dave Lundquist, a technical adviser on marine species, says that while scientists don't typically know why individual whale strandings occur, they believe there are probably a range of reasons. He said they could be caused by the whales navigating incorrectly, trying to escape from predators, or some of them suffering injuries or illness. He said there could also be man-made factors like underwater noise. "In many of those cases, it's probably a combination of those factors," he said. (Scientists discover a quirk in whale songs.)
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