Over 50 whales die in mass stranding event in Western Australia

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CANBERRA (Australia): More than 50 whales have died in a mass stranding event in Western Australia. Officials and volunteers are now on the move to save dozens others stuck in shallow waters, authorities said on Wednesday, CNN reported.

The Parks and Wildlife Service of Western Australia in  a statement on Facebook said a large pod of long-finned pilot whales were spotted on Tuesday morning near the state’s southern coast.

The agency said: “Sadly, 51 whales have died overnight after a mass stranding at Cheynes Beach.” It added that the staff and hundreds of volunteers were trying to save 46 other whales by returning them to deep water.

Video posted on social media shows dozens of the whales – some laying sideways, others on their backs – flapping their tails in shallow waters. Another video shows the whales huddling together, remaining still, as per CNN.

Meanwhile, wildlife officials have urged the public to keep away from the beach, warning against “large, distressed and potentially sick whales, sharks, waves, heavy machinery and vessels.”

Long-finned pilot whales, which can grow up to 25 feet (7.6 meters) long, are identified by their black color and bulbous foreheads. They can be found in waters of the Southern Hemisphere and North Atlantic Ocean.

According to Wildlife researcher Vanessa Pirotta, it remains unknown why the pilot whales became stranded. She noted that the pod demonstrated the rare behavior of huddling together prior to their beaching.

“It could be that they are trying to avoid a predator, like a killer whale,” she said.

Pilot whales are “very social and dynamic with strong bonds with others,” she said, meaning they could end up getting lost if they followed a disorientated pod member, as per CNN,

Pirotta said that toothed whales such as pilot whales that use sonar to navigate are more commonly prone to stranding than their toothless counterparts.

And pilot whale strandings are common across the world.

Last September, around 200 were beached along the coast of Tasmania, Australia. Of that number, only 35 survived and were refloated. Tasmania’s largest stranding was in 2020, when more than 450 pilot whales were found. (ANI)

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