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Trouble in Paradise: 160 Pilot Whales Beach in Western Australia

Image by Guardian Australia via YouTube

That’s right, not one, not two, but 160 pilot whales washed up along Dunsborough’s shoreline on April 25th, a coastal town south of Perth.

With many lives at stake, wildlife officials and the local community sprang into action with one shared objective: get as many whales back in the water as possible.

Along with the logistical nightmare of moving what seems like an endless number of whales, which aren’t small, time wasn’t on their side. On average, once beached, a whale, from blue whales to humpbacks, has around six hours to live.

Image by Guardian Australia via YouTube

It’s believed that of the 160 pilot whales, 130 survived, meaning over 80% were successfully returned to their natural habitat – an impressive feat that was riddled with multiple obstacles.

YouTube video
“Dozens of pilot whales beach in mass stranding in Western Australia”, Source: YouTube, Publisher: Guardian Australia

The cause of this event remains unknown as scientists suggest it could be one of many possibilities, such as climate change, affecting the water temperatures and food resources, poor health, injury, or the chance that one whale being stranded influenced the rest of the pod to follow suit due to their strong social bonds.

Pilot whales in particular are renowned for their sociable nature, often looking out and caring for weak members – if this where the case, for over 100 aquatic mammals to swim towards the unknown then the familiar deep blue speaks lengths of their loyalty and community. I think a few individuals could learn from these majestic creatures.

Image by Guardian Australia via YouTube

Initially on the scene was Ian Wiese, Chair of the Geographe Marine Research group, who described it as an “overwhelming sight”. He later described this Armageddon event in more detail, “You can see how closely packed the whales were….. I’ve managed [whale strandings] before but nothing ever of this size…. My initial reaction seeing hundreds of whales all bunched [together] on the beach was just completely and utterly overwhelming. It was really, really chaotic….. However, the final result was good news – as often with these events, it is only possible to save a few.”

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