Beaching of whales

What causes pilot whales to get disoriented?

Pilot whales are highly sensitive to noise pollution, caused by man-made sounds that interfere with echolocation. This makes them susceptible to disorientation from a variety of causes: underwater earthquakes, sonar and even changes in the Earth’s magnetic field. Therefore forced reorientation can kill them, as has been known to happen.

What’s the death count?

So far, 73 pilot whales have died in the current beaching. At least 36 whales had been rescued and pushed back into the sea but nearly 28 of them floated back to the shore. Wildlife experts have been able to rescue only six.

Is rehabilitation possible?

Depending on how severely disoriented they are, rehabilitating some whales could mean transferring them to a special, correctional facility. The facilities have large pools with water temperatures maintained to simulate that near the shores. They also have medical experts monitoring the whales’ heart rates and their overall health at least once a day.

How can beached whales be rescued?

They are sometimes covered in wet towels and sheets, with volunteers pouring water over the mammals to keep them cool. Zinc oxide is placed around the blowhole to keep the airways clear and, sometimes, tents are placed over the pen to provide additional protection from the sun. After the monitoring, lasting days , the whales — before being released into the sea — are tagged with satellite markers to track their long-term progress. 

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