A pod of seven sperm whales has been found dead on a South Australian beach, victims of an extremely rare mass stranding event in a region that the species hasn’t frequented for over 25 years.
According to IFLScience, the sperm whales had been spotted swimming near Yorke Peninsula recently by locals. On Monday, six of the animals were found dead, washed up along the shore of Parara beach. Several kilometers away, a seventh whale was discovered still alive, but rescuers were unable to save its life. An eighth whale was also found nearby in shallow waters, and the animal was luckily able to make its way back out into the open ocean.
— Nine News Adelaide (@9NewsAdel) December 9, 2014
Though it is unclear why the whales stranded themselves, the Independent notes that some locals believe the animals became trapped while hunting for salmon. Another theory that has been advanced suggests that one of the whales fell ill before moving into the shallows, and called out for help, causing the rest of the pod to follow.
Whale carcasses could be left to rot on SA beach after mass stranding http://t.co/7Fn7cN0jHr pic.twitter.com/ZFXP2aZCho
— ABC News Adelaide (@abcnewsAdelaide) December 9, 2014
Local officials are undecided on how they may attempt to remove the whales, which weigh almost 50 tons each.
“It’s a very big logistical task,” an official said.
South Australian Whale Center coordinator Leah Pippos noted the extreme rarity of the event, pointing out that sperm whales haven’t been observed in the area for over 25 years. According to Discovery News, animal welfare manager Deborah Kelly concurred with that assessment.
“I haven’t seen a marine event like this in South Australia since the mass stranding of 58 dolphins at Nepean Bay in the 1990s,” she said.
— Ten News Adelaide (@TenNewsADEL) December 8, 2014
Recently, an underwater photographer was able to capture rare images of the birth of a baby sperm whale. As the Inquisitr previously reported, the calf was assisted to the surface for its first breaths by other attendant female sperm whales, which acted as midwives. Within just a few moments, the baby whale was able to swim on its own, independent of any assistance.
— Blue Planet Society (@Seasaver) December 8, 2014
A spokeswoman from the local environmental agency also warned beachgoers to avoid the area around the carcasses, due to fears that the dead sperm whales may attract sharks.
[Image: Vicki Freer via the Herald Sun]