Mass whale stranding in Australia: 51 pilot whales died, 46 to be rescued

Animal News: Mass whale stranding in Australia: 51 pilot whales died, 46 to be rescued
Pod of whales stranded on beach in Australia, 26 July 2023, credit: still video ABC via Reuters Connect

UPDATE: The 46 pilot whales, who were still alive, were euthanized after failed attempts to return them to sea

More than 50 pilot whales died on the remote Cheynes Beach in Australia after around 100 whales were found stranded on Tuesday, authorities announced on Wednesday. 

“Sadly, 51 whales have died overnight after a mass stranding,” the Western Australia Parks and Wildlife Service said. “(We) are working in partnership with registered volunteers and other organizations to try to return the remaining 46 whales to deeper water during the course of the day.”

“The stranding is heartbreakingly tragic and so very sad. What drives volunteers is the hope we can save those still alive,” Western Australia’s environment minister Reece Whitby said on Facebook.

“As you’d expect, it’s difficult, emotional work – the volunteers told me they can’t help but become attached to the animals they’re trying to rescue. I’m so impressed by them,” he added.

Australia and its neighboring island nation, New Zealand, have historically been hot spots for mass whale strandings. There are various causes for the strandings. Whales often seek the coast when they are sick, stressed, or dying. If an entire school of whales becomes stranded, that could mean that they have followed a sick whale. 

The animals can also be washed ashore because they can no longer navigate well due to bad weather or noise from ships.

Last week, a pod of 55 pilot whales died after a mass stranding in Scotland.

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