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Mysterious stranding of marine mammals leaves experts puzzled

Mysterious stranding of marine mammals leaves experts puzzled

Image source: © @dolphindiscoverycentre / Facebook
Marta Grzeszczuk,
26.04.2024 13:00

More than 100 pilot whales have been stranded on beaches or in shallow coastal waters along the west coast of Australia. Despite rescue efforts, many of the whales could not be saved. Scientists are now investigating the reasons behind this tragic event.

On 25 April, a group of around 160 pilot whales, marine mammals belonging to the dolphin family, swam onto a beach on the west coast of Australia. Unfortunately, at least 26 of these whales died before wildlife officials could begin a rescue attempt, according to local officials.

More than 100 pilot whales stranded

The local Department of Biodiversity, Wildlife and Attractions reports that the stranded pilot whales were from four pods spread along a 500m stretch of shore. Additionally, 20 of the whales were located about 1.5km away from the shore, while a pod of 110 was found closer to the beach, Euronews reports.

"Our team is assessing the conditions of the whales that have been stranded on the beach. Our teams on the water are trying to keep the animals together and away from the beach," the department said.

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"These events usually result in the beached animals having to be euthanised as the most humane outcome," the spokesperson told Reuters.

Attempting treatment would likely prolong the animal's suffering before death. Live stranded marine mammals, especially large whales, can live for hours - or even days - with excessive pain, stress and suffering if not euthanised.

Scientists are looking for the cause of the mass stranding of pilot whales

Regional wildlife officer Pia Courtis said the whales were believed to have become stranded in the early morning of 25 April. She said the pod of 110 whales was "sticking together offshore" and was likely to come toward the beach.

"Unfortunately, the outcome for our pilot whales once they strand on the beach is generally not good. We have high numbers of animals that end up dying," Courtis said in a video statement published by Euronews.

It is still unknown what causes pilot whales to strand themselves on beaches. However, some theories suggest they might be avoiding predators, such as killer whales, or following a sick leader ashore. According to the University of Western Australia, pilot whales are known to have strong social bonds, so if one of them is in trouble, the rest might follow. Additionally, human-generated undersea noise can also interfere with their ability to navigate.

Source: euronews.com, reuters.com

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