One day after attempted rescue, six stranded whales die on Australian beach

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

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Six long-finned pilot whales (pictured) died after becoming stranged on an Australian beach.
(Image missing from Commons: image; log)

Six whales have died after becoming stranded on a southwest Australia beach, one day after conservation officials attempted to rescue them.

A pod of about 90 long-finned pilot whales were stranded on Hamelin Bay Tuesday. More than 70 of the mammals died, along with four dolphins, but about 10 whales were guided back out to sea by officials from the Australian Department of Environment and Conservation.

Six of the rescued whales washed up on a different beach less than a day later. Three died of natural causes Wednesday, and the other three were shot by veterinarians due to their poor condition.

About 180 volunteers, wildlife officers and veterinarians participated in the Tuesday rescue effort, but officials said there had always been a risk that the whales could be stranded again. "It is frustrating, there is a lot of effort by the community and by DEC staff, it is a frustrating process when that happens but it's not totally unexpected," said John Carter, state conservation department officer.

The other four whales rescued Tuesday are still believed to be at sea, and department officials are monitoring the ocean to verify their safety.

Almost 500 whales have died in five mass beachings over the last five months. The West Australian coast has seen 21 mass whale and dolphin strandings since 1984, according to the department.

The whales tried swimming back to shore shortly after the Tuesday rescue, but conservation officials guided them to deeper waters with the hopes that they would stay out at sea. Scientists cannot explain what draws whales so close to shore.

The whales were stranded Wednesday in a remote location where conservation officials could not transport rescue equipment. At least one of the whales was attacked by sharks, officials said.


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