02 June 2005

False killer whales stranded near Perth

The condition of up to 160 false killer whales stranded on the Busselton beachfront, south of Perth, is deteriorating and at least one of the mammals has died.

The whales were initially thrashing about when they became stranded at two locations on Geographe Bay this morning, but they have since become ill and distressed.

A massive rescue effort is under way to try to save the whales, but conditions are cold and rough.

The Department of Conservation and Land Management is concerned the hundreds of volunteers are at risk of hypothermia.

The department is still considering how to send the whales back out to sea, and it's not yet known when the attempt will be made.

False killer whales, or pseudorca crassidens, have a history of beaching on the Australian west coast. In 1986, 114 beached near Augusta, south of Busselton. Of them, 96 were returned to sea while the remainder died.

In April, a pod of 19 pilot whales spent more than a day stranded on a beach near Busselton before most of them were coaxed back to sea. Six of them died.

Scientists have yet to explain the factors that trigger such mass whale strandings.

Sources: www.news24.com and www.abc.net.au


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