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A pod of 39 pilot whales died after becoming stranded on a remote New Zealand beach, conservation officials said Monday.

Rangers had been monitoring the sea creatures but were powerless to stop them from swimming into Golden Bay on the country’s South Island, New Zealand’s Department of Conservation said in astatement.

Conservation Services Manager John Mason said 12 of the whales died naturally and the rest were euthanized after rangers determined they were too far up the beach to be refloated.

‘We carefully weighed up the likelihood of being able to refloat them and get them safely back out to sea,” he said. “But our staff, who have extensive experience in dealing with mass whale strandings in Golden Bay, determined that due to various factors it was unlikely they could be rescued.

“They have come very high onto the beach in a big tide,” he added. “The big tides are now reducing, coming in further out from shore, so it would be difficult to get the large animals into deep enough water to refloat them. Strong winds would also hamper any refloat attempt.”

Mass pilot whale strandings are common in New Zealand, with scientists unclear about why the marine mammals swim ashore in large groups.