Out of a pod of 22 short-finned pilot whales who became stranded off the coast at Avalon State Park in Fort Pierce, Fla. on Saturday morning, only two males and three female babies survived. At the same time in Pittenweem, Scotland 26 pilot whales also became stranded on the beach. Ten survived as the high tide floated them out to sea again.
The Florida whale survivors have been transported to Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Institute for rehabilitation.
The other whales either died of natural causes or were humanely euthanized. Experts will perform necropsies on the whales.
For most of the day Florida volunteers covered the whales with moist towels and continued to pour water over them to keep them cool and comfortable. Allison Garrett, the spokesperson for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the fisheries service said it was doubtful most of the whales could be saved.
For one reason, pilot whales are famous for mass strandings and have accidentally beached themselves following one of their sick pod members to shore. Even when laboriously pushed back out to sea, it is not uncommon for the rest of the pod to keep returning to the beach for the sick whale.
According to tcpalm.com
“For this reason, it’s useless to push pilot whales back into the ocean,” Blair Mase, stranding coordinator for NOAA’s Southeast Region told TCPalm.com.
“This species has a tight social structure,” Mase said. “Typically, they stay together as a group. So if one animal is sick, they all come ashore. If you push them into the water, they’ll just keep coming back and stranding themselves again.”
According to Scientificamerican.com, some environmental supporters theorize whales beach themselves as a result of the impact of pollution, shipping noises, and military sonar. Darlene Ketten, a neuroethologist contends that half of the strandings may be due to disease and trauma.
History books, however may prove that pilot whale strandings may just be a natural phenomenon.
As the pod of 26 pilot whales lay stranded in Pittenweem, Scotland, hundreds of spectators and volunteers watched, carried, cared and worked until the tide carried ten of the whales back to sea. At least 16 others including babies died or were dying. According to The Telegraph, the whales have a 50-50 chance of survival. They may become stranded again or die from stress, however another pod of whales were seen farther off the coast, and it was hoped the whales would join the pod.
Still it was a sad afternoon in Florida as so many volunteers had hoped that more whales would survive. Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisth, a Harbor Branch volunteer who helped in the rescue of the whales told TCPalm.com:
“I think that people want to help animals,” she said. “Especially whales and dolphins, because they are our counterparts in the seas. They’re mammals, they’re intelligent, they’re social. They’re a lot like us.”
To view the photos of the Fort Pierce whale rescue operation from TCPalm, click here.
Photographs of the Pittenweem, Scotland rescue operation are presented in a slideshow.
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