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Stranded Whales in New Zealand Euthanised (VIDEO)

16/01/2014 11:32 GMT | Updated 25/01/2014 21:01 GMT

Frantic attempts to save eight whales who became stranded on New Zealand's South Island have ended in tragedy.

Thirteen pilot whales from the pod became stranded on Tuesday, with five dying on the first night.

They were refloated on Wednesday, the department said, but yesterday they were found back on the beach.

Euthanasia was the only option, conservationists said. The whales were shot and killed on Thursday, the conservation department said.

"We have done all we can to help these whales but there is only so much we can do for them. Euthanizing them humanely relieves their suffering," regional department of conservation manager John Mason said in a statement.

"It is a hard call to make but the whales appear to be stressed and suffering from the ordeal of being beached for hours several times over the past two days."

Farewell Spit, the small town where the whales were found is often the scene of mass strandings, but scientists are unsure why so many swim ashore in that area. Just ten days ago, 39 pilot whales washed up on Golden Bay and became trapped by a falling tide.