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Pilot whales die after mass stranding on beach, as rescuers battle to save dozens more

Rescuers are battling to save dozens of pilot whales that are stranded on a beach in Australia.

Almost 100 washed ashore on Cheynes Beach – and on Wednesday morning, it was confirmed that 51 of them had died overnight.

Peter Hartley, from Western Australia’s Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, told ABC: “We still have 46 whales still alive, and that will be our focus today – to get them back into the water and encourage them to head off into deeper water.”

Pilot whales are highly social animals. Pic: AP

He said that rescuers – alongside vets from Perth Zoo and marine fauna experts – are “optimistic that we will save as many as we can”.


Specialised equipment including vessels and slings are being used to move the surviving whales – with hundreds of volunteers involved. Other members of the public are now being urged to stay away after officials were inundated with offers of help.

Wildlife experts say the cause of mass strandings remains unclear – but it could be a sign of stress or illness within the pod.

Pilot whales are highly social animals and often maintain close relationships with their pods throughout their lives.

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The pilot whales shortly before the stranding. Pic: AP
The pilot whales shortly before the stranding. Pic: AP

Vanessa Pirotta, a wildlife scientist at Macquarie University, says drone footage suggests the pod may have become disoriented.

“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.

Pic: AP
Pic: AP

Dr Pirotta added that pilot whales tend to have a “follow-the-leader type mentality” – and this could explain why so many were stranded.

Cheynes Beach lies about 280 miles (450km) southeast of Perth.


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