Volunteers Save 5 of Over 150 Stranded Pilot Whales in Australia

At least 135 whales have died at Hamelin Bay and the 15 surviving animals are being monitored by wildlife experts

At least 135 whales have died at Hamelin Bay and the 15 surviving animals are being monitored by wildlife experts

More than 150 short-finned pilot whales stranded en masse at Hamelin Bay on the west coast of Australia early Friday morning.

Volunteers have rescued five of the 150 short-finned pilot whales that became stranded on a beach in Western Australia.

Scores of wildlife rangers and volunteers waded into the waters off Hamelin Bay, five miles north of the coastal city of Augusta, shortly after the pilot whales were spotted by fishermen at dawn.

Rescuers face a race against time to save the survivors and are trying to herd them back to sea, while palliative care will be administered where necessary. So far, the remaining six whales appear to have survived although incident controller Jeremy Chick said they could attempt to beach themselves at another location.

A sixth whale was freed into shallow waters overnight but it beached again and had to be euthanized.

Scientists do not know exactly what causes whales to beach themselves.

Unfortunately, more than 70% of the whales had died by the morning.

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"It is possible that the whales could come back into shore and re-strand". "Rescue operations will be hampered by deteriorating weather conditions and we need to ensure the safety of everyone involved before we move the whales".

Parks and Wildlife Service staff are on-site and vets will assess the health of the surviving animals so authorities can return them to deeper water.

"This has often been the case in previous mass strandings", he added.

"I watched one of them-it happened three times but still it wouldn't go back to sea".

Pilot whales, which are part of the dolphin family, weigh between one and four tons each, providing a logistical challenge to local authorities, who are now working on disposing of the carcasses.

According to the Department of Fisheries, some of the whales are still alive but a lot of them are dead on the shore.

The largest stranding incident happened in 1918 on the shore of Chatham Island, almost 1000 pilot whales stranded.

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