Rescuers bid to save nearly 100 beached whales in Western Australia

Rescuers Bid To Save Nearly 100 Beached Whales In Western Australia
More than 50 of the long-finned pilot whales have already died. Photo: PA Images
Share this article

Associated Press Reporters

Volunteers worked frantically for a second day on Wednesday to try to save dozens of pilot whales that have stranded themselves on a beach in Western Australia, but more than 50 have already died.

Nearly 100 long-finned pilot whales were first spotted swimming near the city of Albany in Western Australia on Tuesday morning.


As the day progressed, the pod began moving closer to Cheynes Beach, sparking concern among conservation officers.

Australia Beached Whales
Nearly 100 pilot whales stranded themselves on Cheynes Beach in Western Australia on Tuesday, and about half had died by Wednesday morning, despite rescue efforts (Australian Broadcasting Corp. via AP)

By 4pm, a large stretch of the shoreline was covered in beached whales.


Western Australia’s environment minister, Reece Whitby, said it is particularly frustrating because it is not known why the phenomenon occurs.

“What we’re seeing is utterly heart-breaking and distressing,” he told reporters. “It’s just a terrible, terrible tragedy to see these dead pilot whales on the beach.”

Fifty-two whales had died, but volunteers are doing what they can to try to save 45 still alive, he said.

“People are committed to doing what they can to save as many whales as they can,” he added.


Australia Beached Whales
Wildlife experts said the unusual behaviour of the whales could be an indicator of stress or illness within the pod (Australian Broadcasting Corp/AP)

Western Australia’s Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions set up an overnight camp to monitor the whales.

Peter Hartley, a manager from the department, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp that the volunteers are trying to get the living whales back into the water and encourage them to swim away.


“We are optimistic that we will save as many as we can,” he said.

The team tasked with helping the whales includes Perth Zoo veterinarians and marine fauna experts. They have been using specialised equipment, including vessels and slings.

Hundreds of volunteers also offered to help – so many that officials said they had enough registered volunteers and urged other members of the public to stay away from the beach.

Australia Beached Whales
Drone footage showed the whales clustering and forming into a heart shape before stranding themselves on the beach (DBCA/AP)

Drone footage released by the department showed the whales clustering and forming into a heart shape before stranding themselves on the beach.

“This is just an amazing event,” Joanne Marsh, owner the Cheynes Beach Caravan Park told the ABC. “We’ve never seen anything quite like this.”

Wildlife experts said the unusual behaviour of the whales could be an indicator of stress or illness within the pod. Pilot whales are highly social animals and often maintain close relationships with their pods throughout their lives.

Macquarie University wildlife scientist Vanessa Pirotta said the drone footage could suggest the whales had become disoriented, although she said the exact reasons for mass strandings remain unclear.

“The fact that they were in one area very huddled, and doing really interesting behaviours, and looking around at times, suggests that something else is going on that we just don’t know,” she said.

Australia Beached Whales
A wildlife scientist said it was unlikely the whales were trying to avoid a predator (Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions/AP)

She said she thinks it unlikely that the whales were trying to avoid a predator.

“They often have a follow-the-leader type mentality, and that can very much be one of the reasons why we see stranding of not just one but many,” she added.

The incident is reminiscent of one in September, in which some 200 pilot whales died after a pod stranded itself on the remote west coast of Tasmania, off Australia’s south-eastern coast.

The following month, nearly 500 pilot whales died after stranding themselves on two remote beaches in New Zealand.

Read More

Message submitting... Thank you for waiting.

Want us to email you top stories each lunch time?

Download our Apps
© 2024, developed by Square1 and powered by