A pod of 24 pilot whales died this week after becoming stranded in a mangrove swamp in New Zealand, conservation officials said Friday.
14 of the whales were discovered dead Friday in the muddy shallows of North Island’s Parengarenga Harbor, The Associated Press reports. The remaining 10 survivors were in such poor shape that officials made the difficult decision to euthanize them.
Department of Conservation area manager Jonathan Maxwell told AP that the whales faced poor weather conditions, and with high tide more than eight hours away, “the chance of successfully refloating the whales was virtually nil.”
“Sadly, the current conditions were against these animals. The kindest thing was to end their suffering,” he said. “If we felt there was a real chance we could have successfully rescued them, we would have.”
Such whale strandings are not unusual in New Zealand. The nation’s coastal areas see several strandings each summer: sometimes as many as 450 animals are beached.
Pilot whales, New Zealand’s most common whale species, are especially prone to strandings in shallow water since they travel in groups of about 10 to 30 whales. When one whale gets stuck, other pod members try to help it and also become stranded.
Adult pilot whales range between 13 to 19 feet in average length.