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New Zealand rangers put down stranded whales

by Staff Writers
Wellington (AFP) Jan 21, 2011
New Zealand wildlife rangers put down 10 pilot whales stranded in a remote New Zealand bay Friday after reluctantly determining there was no way to save them, conservation officials said.

The whales were the surviving members of a pod of 24 found early Friday trapped in mud and mangroves at Parengarenga Harbour, 320 kilometres (200 miles) northwest of Auckland, the Department of Conservation (DOC) said.

DOC area manager Jonathan Maxwell said by the time rangers reached the whales they were in poor condition and the weather was deteriorating.

"This meant the chance of successfully refloating the whales was virtually nil," he said.

Maxwell said the decision to put down the whales was difficult but the rangers had no choice.

"If we felt there was a real chance we could have successfully rescued them, we would have," he said.

"Sadly, the current conditions were against these animals. The kindest thing was to end their suffering."

Scientists are unsure why pilot whales beach themselves, although they speculate it may occur when their sonar becomes scrambled in shallow water or when a sick member of the pod heads for shore and others follow.

Pilot whale strandings are common in New Zealand and a pod of about 80 beached in the same area last September, with 14 surviving after they were refloated in the sea.

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