145 pilot whales die in stranding on New Zealand beach

Pilot whales lie beached at Mason Bay, Rakiura on Stewart Island, New Zealand. As many as 145 pilot whales have died after the mass stranding which was discovered by a hiker on Nov. 24, 2018.(Department of Conservation via AP)
Updated 26 November 2018
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145 pilot whales die in stranding on New Zealand beach

  • A hiker discovered the pilot whales in two pods about 2 kilometers apart late Saturday on Stewart Island
  • Whale strandings are relatively common in New Zealand during the Southern Hemisphere spring and summer

WELLINGTON, New Zealand: All of the 145 pilot whales that stranded themselves on a remote New Zealand beach have died.
However, conservation workers are hoping to save some of the eight pygmy killer whales that remained stranded Monday at the other end of the country in an unrelated event.
A hiker discovered the pilot whales in two pods about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) apart late Saturday on Stewart Island. About 75 were already dead and conservation workers decided to euthanize the others due to their poor condition and remote location.
Only about 375 people live on Stewart Island, which is also called Rakiura. The whales were found at Mason’s Bay about 35 kilometers (22 miles) from the main township of Oban.
“You feel for the animals, it’s just a really sad event,” said Ren Leppens, the Rakiura operations manager for the Department of Conservation. “It’s the kind of thing you don’t want to see. You wish you could understand the reasoning why the whales strand better, so you could intervene.”
Leppens said the whales were half buried in sand and not in good health, indicating they had been there for perhaps a day before they were found. He said staff shot the whales and the carcasses would be left where they were for nature to take its course.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, 10 pygmy killer whales were found stranded at Ninety Mile Beach on the North Island. Two have since died, and staff plan to try and refloat the remaining eight.
Whale strandings are relatively common in New Zealand during the Southern Hemisphere spring and summer. It’s believed strandings can be caused by a number of factors, such as the whales trying to escape predators, falling ill, or navigating incorrectly.


Cuban cigars hit record sales thanks to increasing Chinese demand

Updated 11 min 40 sec ago
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Cuban cigars hit record sales thanks to increasing Chinese demand

  • Unlike in Europe, sales in China have not been affected by toughening anti-tobacco laws
HAVANA: Boosted by growing demand from China, sales of Cuban cigars reached a record $537 million in 2018, a seven percent increase over the previous year despite global laws against tobacco, the partially state-owned Habanos said Monday.
“China has surpassed France as the second biggest market for Habanos” behind Spain, said the cigar company’s vice president Jose Maria Lopez Inchaurbe.
Sales in China grew by 55 percent with east Asia as a whole up nine percent, said Lopez.
Marketing manager Ernesto Gonzalez said the figures showed “the strength of our sales despite the difficulties faced during the year.”
The French market was hit by a 17 percent increase in taxes on tobacco products, which meant Habanos had to push up its prices by eight to 10 percent, said Lopez.
Gonzalez said the impressive figures came despite the global luxury tobacco market growing by just one percent in 2018.
Unlike in Europe, sales in China have not been affected by toughening anti-tobacco laws.
“The tobacco market regulatory environment is getting increasingly complicated,” said Lopez.
The growth also comes despite the continuing embargo on Cuban products being sold in the hugely lucrative US market.
Habanos is half-owned by Spanish tobacco firm Altadis, which is itself the property of British giant Imperial Brand.
In 2017, Habanos saw sales grow by 12 percent to reach a then-record $500 million, again pushed by a huge upsurge in Chinese demand.