Animal-lovers were shocked on Friday (March 23) when about 135 short-finned pilot whales died after being stranded on West Australia’s Hamelin Bay south of Perth.
Most of the mammals may have beached themselves on dry land overnight and died of suffocation. A commercial fisherman spotted them around 6 am and alerted the authorities.
Six other whales stranded on the beach have been saved due to the efforts of about 100 animal-loving volunteers, said Parks and Wildlife Service Incident Controller Jeremy Chick.
Initially, the six mammals were kept in shallow waters but the rescue efforts were hampered by the presence of dead whales in water, the rough seas and the rocky terrain near the beach.
The team of officials and volunteers finally herded the six whales to deep waters around 7 pm with the hope they will not return to the beach to die.
Officers of Parks and Wildlife Service have taken DNA samples of whales to study why they strand.
Experts say whales and other marine mammals get stranded due to factors like old age, illness or injury.
The strong social bonding of some species of whales can cause mass stranding. When one or two whales get stranded, they send out distress signals to others of the same breed who come near the shore and are stranded after a tide recedes, Project Jonah, a New Zealand-based whale charity, told CNN last year.
Hamelin Beach remains closed from Hamelin Caravan Park to North Point and a shark alert has been issued as the whale carcasses may attract them.
This is not the first incident of stranded whales at Hamelin Bay. Nine years ago, 55 whales and dolphins died here in a mass stranding.
The largest stranding of 320 long-finned pilot whales happened at Dunsborough in West Australia in 1996.