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Last Updated: Sunday, 1 January 2006, 16:52 GMT
Stranded whales shot dead in NZ
Conservation workers and volunteers use a high tide on 21 December 2005 to refloat whales
More than 100 whales were successfully freed last month
Dozens of stranded pilot whales have been shot dead in New Zealand to end their suffering when it was ruled too difficult to get them back in the sea.

The department of conservation said any attempt to refloat the whales would be too dangerous for the humans involved and would probably not have worked.

The whales were stranded on a beach near Farewell Spit, on the north-western tip of the South Island.

More than 100 whales were freed from the same area about two weeks ago.

These latest stranded whales are not thought to have been from the same pod.

The latest whales were stranded further out on the spit than the previous group, meaning that any rescue attempt could have resulted in people being swept out to sea.

Eight of the whales died within hours of being stranded, the New Zealand Herald reported. Another 41 whales were shot to end their suffering.

"Given the hopelessness of being able to successfully refloat the whales, our prime concern was then to avoid the whales having a long and painful death," said a conservation department spokesman, Greg Napp, quoted by the paper.

Scientists are not sure what causes whales to beach themselves.

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