Over 100 whales die on two New Zealand beaches

Over 100 whales die on two New Zealand beachesWellington, Dec 28 - More than 120 pilot whales died in mass strandings at two New Zealand beaches, it was reported Monday.

A pod of 105 died after beaching themselves at the eastern tip of remote Farewell Spit, at the top of the South Island, Saturday, the Southland Times newspaper reported, quoting a Department of Conservation (DOC) official.

Twenty-one other pilot whales died and 42 were successfully refloated after stranding at Colville Bay, on the North Island's Coromandel Peninsula, Sunday.

A department spokesman said the survivors, who were kept wet by hundreds of tourists and volunteers until they could be refloated on the afternoon's high tide, were later reported to be swimming strongly and appeared to be in no danger of beaching again.

The pod of adults and calves beached on Farewell Spit were spotted by the pilot of a sightseeing plane on Boxing Day, DOC Golden Bay biodiversity programme manager Hans Stoffregen told the Southland Times.

He said that when DOC staff reached them only 30 were alive. "They were in bad shape. We had to euthanise the rest," he said.

Stoffregen said they had been out of the water for a long time. "It has been quite hot and they were very distressed. You could see the pain and suffering in their eyes."

He said that shooting the survivors was "horrible but nothing could have been done to save them. It was the most humane thing to do." (dpa)