Pod of 55 pilot whales dies after mass stranding in Scotland

Animal News: Around 55 pilot whales die after mass stranding in Scotland
Dead whales after mass stranding, Isle of Lewis, Britain, July 16, 2023, credit: Cristina McAvoy via Reuters

A pod of 55 pilot whales died on Sunday after they got stranded on the beach of the Isle of Lewis in Scotland.

Conservationists received a report early in the morning that the pilot whales were stuck in the surf. They tried to lead the dolphin-like animals back to the sea; one pilot whale was able to be guided back, but the animal got stranded again.

After several hours, veterinarians decided that it would be more humane to euthanize the stranded whales that were still alive -around 15 animals were still alive, the rest had already died.

“The last animals were declared deceased at about 3:30 pm,” animal charity organization British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) said. The deceased animals were removed for further study.

Mass strandings
Scientists are still trying to figure out what causes mass strandings. Pilot whales are incredibly social animals and can stay with pod mates when they wander into danger; when a sick whale swims to shore, it’s known that other pod members follow to help the trapped whale.

Olaf Meynecke, a researcher at Griffith University in Australia, said that pilot whales use sophisticated sonar to orient or find prey. He links whale and dolphin strandings to changes in electromagnetic fields caused by human activity.

Karen Stockin, a whale stranding expert at Massey Univerity in New Zealand, told Phys.org that whale strandings could become more common as chemical pollution and shipping traffic increase.

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