Over 50 pilot whales die after being stranded on beach in Scottish islands
Over 50 whales have died after an entire pod was found in a mass stranding on a Western Isles beach in Scotland. The rescue workers were called to the scene at Traigh Mhor in North Tolsta around 7 am on Sunday (July 16) where they found the pod of 55, of which only 15 remained alive.
The British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) workers tried to resuscitate the whales that were low down in the water. While one got away, the other was restranded and died later, as did three others, leaving 12 still alive - eight adults and four calves.
Despite their best intentions, the rescue workers, however, could not get the rest of them back into the waters. Taking the difficult but compassionate decision, the rescue operators decided to euthanise the remaining whales on welfare grounds.
“At about 3.30 pm, the local vet along with the coastguard, fire and rescue, and a forensics vet came to the conclusion that the shallow beach and rough wave conditions made it too unsafe to refloat the remaining animals," BDMLR said, adding that it was an "incredibly complex rescue".
According to reports, due to the remoteness of the island, the medical and rescue workers had to drive up to five miles to get signals in order to communicate with rescue coordinators. It didn't help the cause that the BDMLR was "desperately short of response equipment".
Cause of the beaching
Speaking about the cause of the mass deaths, the marine charity believes one of the whales beached while giving birth, leading to a chain reaction.
“One of the dead whales appeared to have had a vaginal prolapse – so it’s currently suspected that the whole pod stranded due to one female giving birth."
According to experts, pilot whales are known to have strong social bonds, meaning when one of their pod members gets into difficulty and strands, the rest of them follow as well.
After Sunday's incident, the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme will conduct necropsies to determine the concrete cause.
This is not the first instance when hoards of whales have died in a breaching incident. Nearly 500 pilot whales succumbed to the same fate when they got stranded in two separate events in New Zealand last year,
Prior to New Zealand, nearly 200 whales had died on Australia's Tasmanian west coast.
According to the Department of natural resources, the whales got stuck near the harbour entrance, more popularly known as Hell's Gates.
Despite the best efforts of authorities, the majority of the whales could not be saved and they died on the same spot where 350 pilot whales had lost their lives two years ago.