CHEYNES BEACH, Australia - Nearly 100 pilot whales are dead following a mass stranding along Australia’s southern coast, despite the efforts of hundreds of volunteers.
The Parks and Wildlife Service of Western Australia said they responded Tuesday to reports of pilot whales close to the shoreline of Cheynes Beach, which is over 200 miles southeast of Perth.
Staff said during the initial stranding, 51 whales died; however, organizations attempted to save an additional 45 by ushering them to deeper water.
The agency estimated at least 350 staff and volunteers worked tirelessly to keep the animals calm and guide them away from the beach.
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An incident controller said they were "optimistic" that they could lead the whales into deeper water, but on Wednesday, the remaining whales re-stranded themselves on the beach, causing veterinarians to decide the next course of action.
Staff said they made the tough decision to euthanize the remaining whales to limit their apparent suffering.
"It was a difficult decision for all involved; however, the welfare of the whales had to take precedence. We thank everyone who assisted with the attempt to save the whales over the last two days," the Parks and Wildlife Service stated.
So far, veterinarians have not stated what they believe caused of the latest mass stranding.
Beach strandings along the coast of Australia and New Zealand are considered to be common, and researchers say the events are unexplained.
According to the International Whaling Commission, pilot whales are most often involved in mass strandings, but researchers have not pinpointed the cause. Some theories include the group following a diseased individual astray, solar storms or simply poor navigation into shallow waters.
"Look, I think just a big shout out to all the volunteers that have turned up to assist us in this operation. They’ve been outstanding. They’ve been fantastic and are really working well with our staff and really complementing the rescue effort," said Peter Hartley, the incident controller.