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Australia: 160 pilot whales stranded on western beach

April 25, 2024

Several pilot whales — known for their tight-knit bonds — were stranded on a Western Australian coast. Officials were concerned many of them would have to be euthanized.

A pod of pilot whales stranded on a beach at Toby's Inlet in Western Australia on April 25
Experts say four pods that make up about 160 whales were stranded on the beachImage: Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions via AP/picture alliance

Marine biologists on Thursday raced to save dozens of pilot whales stranded in shallow waters on a Western Australian coast.

As many as 160 whales became trapped in shallow water at Toby's Inlet in Geographe Bay, about a three-hour drive south of Perth, the Western Australia Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions said. 

Pilot whales are known for maintaining tight-knit social bonds, so when one gets into difficulty and strands, the rest often follow, according to the university. 

"We understand there are four pods of up to 160 pilot whales in total spread across about 500 meters. Unfortunately, 26 whales that stranded on the beach have died," a department spokesperson said in a statement.

"A team of experienced staff including wildlife officers, marine scientists, veterinarians are on site or on their way," the Parks and Wildlife Service said in a statement. They will try to guide the pilot whales back to deep waters. 

However, officials were worried many of the creatures would have to be euthanized. 

"These events usually result in the beached animals having to be euthanized as the most humane outcome," the Wildlife Service said. "We always hope for the best outcome."

While scientists do not fully understand why they occur, mass strandings of pilot whales are not uncommon in Australia and New Zealand.

In 2022, around 500 pilot whales died after beaching on New Zealand's remote Chatham Islands.

Officials urged the public not to try to rescue the whales on their own. 

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mk/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters)