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Australia: Over 50 pilot whales found dead, 45 euthanized

In a heart-wrenching scene, an unfortunate panorama has unfolded on Cheynes Beach in Western Australia, as a pod 100 pilot whales

By Ground Report
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Australia: Over 50 pilot whales found dead, 45 euthanized

In a heart-wrenching scene, an unfortunate panorama has unfolded on Cheynes Beach in Western Australia, as a pod of approximately 100 pilot whales, also known as long-finned pilot whales, have become stranded since Tuesday.

51 whales perished, 45 uncertain

Despite tireless efforts by various authorities and environmental groups, the situation took a devastating turn on Thursday when it was reported that 51 of the stranded whales had perished. The fate of the remaining 45 cetaceans in the pod remains uncertain as rescue operations continue.

Peter Hartley, the individual overseeing the rescue efforts, stated that the surviving animals are under close observation. As soon as they show signs of regaining enough strength, they will be released back into the deep waters, carried out by volunteers using kayaks.

The Parks and Environment service has issued a plea to the public to stay away from the beach for safety reasons, as the response zone presents various risks, including the presence of large, distressed, and potentially sick whales, sharks, heavy machinery, and ships. Such mass strandings are not uncommon in Australia and New Zealand, adding to concerns for these majestic marine creatures.

Tragically, a similar incident occurred last year in October when around 500 pilot whales became stranded in the Chatham Islands, New Zealand, resulting in a massive loss of life. The exact reasons behind these strandings remain a mystery to scientists, though some researchers speculate that pods may venture too close to the shore while feeding, leading to such tragic outcomes.

Whale Tragedy in Western Australia

In the current situation, on Tuesday morning, the pod of long-finned pilot whales was first spotted swimming close to Cheynes Beach, near the city of Albany in Western Australia. Hours later, a group of 60 to 70 whales found themselves trapped on the beach, prompting immediate efforts from the Parks and Wildlife Service, Western Australia, to assist them.

Despite the dedicated efforts of over 100 staff personnel and 250 volunteers, 51 whales died overnight. Authorities and veterinarians from the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions had to make the heartbreaking decision to euthanize the remaining 45 whales in order to prevent further suffering.

Experts suggest that the unusual behavior of these pilot whales could be an indication of stress or illness within the pod, as these highly social animals often have close relationships with their fellow pod members throughout their lives.

Cetacean stranding, commonly referred to as beaching, is observed in dolphins and whales, where they strand themselves on beaches. The Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida explains that a single, live animal beaching is often a result of sickness or injury. Still, it can also be influenced by factors such as bad weather, old age, navigation errors, and hunting too close to shore. In some cases, distress calls from one affected group member can lead the others to follow, resulting in mass strandings.

Tragically, similar incidents of mass strandings involving pilot whales have been recorded in both Australia and New Zealand. In September 2022, over 200 pilot whales died after stranding themselves on Tasmania's west coast, and only a few days later, 14 sperm whales were found beached on an island off the northwestern coast of Australia. In October of the same year, more than 470 pilot whales died after stranding themselves on two remote beaches in New Zealand.

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