About 240 whales have died after stranding on a beach in the remote Chatham Islands, 840 kilometers off New Zealand’s South Island. Few days ago, another 215 whales stranded about 40 kilometers off the island of Rangiauria, which belongs to the Chatham Islands group and is home to fewer than 800 people.

Officials from New Zealand’s Ministry of Conservation are investigating the two incidents. The surviving whales-whose numbers are unknown-were euthanized to spare them “further suffering,” as there is a ban on putting them back afloat because of the risk of shark attacks on both staff and injured mammals.

The experts are unable to explain the reasons for these beachings. Many marine mammals, including whales and dolphins, are wont to be stranded off the coasts of South Australia and New Zealand, but the reasons may be different: it is believed that these incidents may be caused by disease, navigational errors, sudden tidal changes, pursuit by predators or extreme weather conditions.

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