Beached pilot whales get piloted out to sea

Although most of the pod could not be saved, a team of around 65 people battled throughout much of Sunday to move 11 survivors, including both adults and juveniles, 17 kilometres by road in trailers to nearby Godfrey’s Beach to try to return them to the sea. One whale died during the operation. Chris Arthur, who coordinated the rescue effort, said 11 of the 64 animals found stranded on the island’s north coast were released after a day-long effort which involved relocating them by road to another beach.
It is unusual to save any whales after such a mass stranding.

Thanks for your help!  – Mother NatureAustralia Stranded Whales

“We have successfully released 11 animals out to sea,”  said Arthur “The last one (pilot whale) went out (to sea) less than 20 minutes ago.”
While the possibility that the animals would strand themselves again could not be ruled out, he said, the hope was that they would instead join up with other pilot whales in the ocean. Some the whales have been tagged and aerial reconnaissance is planned to check on their progress.
“We have had a reasonable outcome. They will form a small pod. We have given them the best chance they have got,” said Arthur, a regional officer with the Tasmanian state parks and wildlife service.

This maternal pod of 64 long-finned pilot whales , G. melas edwardii

, around one-third of them juveniles, were found stranded last Saturday along a stretch of Anthony’s Beach at Stanley on the island’s northwest coast, a site where repeated strandings have occurred in the past.
Pilot whales are among the smaller whales, typically up to about five metres in length and dark with a grey underbelly. It is thought that their small size may have helped rescuers save them. there would not be as much evaporation from the skin and less crushing weight on their internal organs.

Mass strandings of whales occur periodically in Australia and New Zealand possibly due to disturbance of their echo-location, by interference from sound produced by human activities like sonar problems or parasitic infection that interfere with the central nervous system causing neurological disorders, entanglement in fishing nets pose problems for this species, but the main threat is hunting, particularly coastal hunts.

Pilot whales belong to the same family Cetaceae, the dolphins. There are  two species: Globicephala melas(long-finned) and Globicephala macrorhynchus (short-finned). They are a large dolphin species second only to orca (killer whales) in size. Adult males measure up to 6.1 m in length and weigh up to 2,722 kg. Adult females measure up to 4.9 m in length and weigh up to 1,361 kg. The pilot whale is a gregarious species often found in groups of 20-90, in which there are often small families of females and their calves. Although males are found in these groups as well, they are not necessarily fathers of the calves.

They have a round head with a small beak and dolphin-typical up-curved mouth line. The rounded head of males protrudes over the lower jaw. Pilot whales are dark gray to black in color with a lighter colored patch on the ventral surface, and the short-finned pilot whales may also have a faint patch of white behind the dorsal fin. The dorsal fin is curved with a long base, and the flippers are also curved.pilot-whale_globicefalo

Pilot whales are often associated with mass strandings of several hundred animals. The cause of the mass strandings is unknown, although several theories exist such as sonar problems or parasitic infections that interfere with the central nervous system causing neurological disorders.

Pilot whales feed on squid and other cephalopods and small fish. These dolphins have only 40-48 teeth compared to 120 in other dolphin species. Adults may consume up to 14 kg of food per day. 

Pilot whales have been observed hunting in groups to help concentrate their prey in the center of a pod by using their vocal communications.

Pilot whales are often found in captivity as they survive there and are easily trained. They have been trained by the US Navy to locate military equipment from deep ocean depths for retrieval.

Pilot whale population numbers are unknown.  Pilot whales have been hunted for their meat, bone, oil, and for fertilizer, a practice which continues in some areas. Because they easily adapt to captivity, pilot whales are also exhibited in many aquariums and zoos.(2)

A reconnaissance plane would fly over the area on Monday to check on the whales’ progress. Samples are to be taken from the dead whales and a mass burial organized.
(1.) pilot whale stranded on Anthony’s Beach near Stanley, Tasmania, Australia,

Video  RPI: http://www.rpi.edu
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081124/ap_on_re_au_an/as_australia_stranded_whales;_ylt=AllhUCj..3U1dnhc.5uERh0PLBIF

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20081124/wl_asia_afp/australiaanimalswhales_081124072315;_ylt=AoPd7FlQWvVj9F_Li_.zsvdNYhAF

Long fin map
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Cetacea_range_map_Long-finned_Pilot_Whale.PNG
http://marinebio.org/species.asp?id=354
(2)
Eleven out of 64 pilot whales were returned to the ocean Photo: AP

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/australiaandthepacific/australia/3505469/Australian-rescuers-save-some-of-the-stranded-pilot-whales.html
Chris Arthur, who coordinated the rescue effort, said 11 of the 64 animals found stranded on the island’s north coast were released after a day-long effort which involved relocating them by road to another beach.
Environmentalists said it was unusual to save any whales after such a mass stranding
“We have successfully released 11 animals out to sea,” Arthur told Reuters by telephone. “The last one went out less than 20 minutes ago.”
While the possibility that the animals would strand themselves again could not be ruled out, he said, the hope was that they would instead join up with other pilot whales in the ocean. Some the whales have been tagged and aerial reconnaissance is planned to check on their progress.
“We have had a reasonable outcome. They will form a small pod. We have given them the best chance they have got,” said Arthur, a regional officer with the Tasmanian state parks and wildlife service.
This maternal pod of 64 long-finned pilot whales, around one-third of them juveniles, were found stranded on Saturday along a stretch of Anthony’s Beach at Stanley on the island’s northwest coast, a site where repeated strandings have occurred in the past.
Pilot whales are among the smaller whales, typically up to about five metres in length and dark with a grey underbelly. Their relatively small size may have helped rescuers save them, environmentalists said.
Although most of the pod could not be saved, a team of around 65 people battled throughout much of Sunday to move 12 survivors, including both adults and juveniles, 17 kilometres by road in trailers to nearby Godfrey’s Beach to try to return them to the sea. One whale died during the operation.
Mass strandings of whales occur periodically in Australia and New Zealand for reasons that are not entirely understood. Theories include disturbance of echo-location, possibly by interference from sound produced by human activities at sea, a spokeswoman for the environmental group Greenpeace told Reuters.
In a statement, the state government said satellite trackers had been placed on some of the released whales and a reconnaissance plane would fly over the area on Monday to check on the whales’ progress. Samples are to be taken from the dead whales and a mass burial organised.

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1 Comment

  1. Randall Dear said,

    November 12, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    I am asking permission to use your image of a pilot whale for an activity book to be used by elementary age children. The activity book is distributed free of charge. Thanks.
    Randall Dear
    randall.dear@nmmfoundation.org


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