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It’s estimated that 455 whales have died on two separate occasions off the coast of New Zealand.

On Saturday, 215 pilot whales were found stranded on Chatham Island. Two days later, 240 whales were found stranded on Pitt Island.

New Zealand’s Department of Conservation said on Tuesday that two super pods of pilot whales beached on the two islands in the remote chain and the surviving animals, which could not be refloated, were euthanised.

The department’s Dave Lundquist said the situation of the stranded whales were assessed by a technical team and that they made the difficult decision to euthanise the surviving whales.

“This decision is never taken lightly, but in cases like this it is the kindest option,” Lundquist said.

He went on to explain that the conservation department did not try to refloat whales in the area due to the risk of shark attack to humans and whales.

Not only are shark attacks a major concern in the area, but there were also not enough people in the area to assist with the refloating of the animals.

Daren Grover from Project Noah explained in a Facebook post: “These mass stranding are distressing events, and while we always hope surviving whales are able to be refloated, this wasn’t an option here.”

Image credit: Smithsonian Magazine

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