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Last of nearly 100 whales beached in Australia euthanized despite massive attempted rescue effort

The Western Australia Parks and Wildlife Service said the last of nearly 100 pilot whales that beached themselves were euthanized Wednesday afternoon.

The nearly 50 remaining long-finned pilot whales that beached themselves on a southwestern Australian coast were euthanized Wednesday, despite days of attempted rescue efforts.

Nearly 100 pilot whales were left stranded on the beach Tuesday and volunteers worked frantically to attempt to rescue them, but about 50 had died by the end of the day. Rescue efforts resumed Wednesday, but after these efforts failed, the Western Australia Parks and Wildlife Service said in a statement that the remaining 45 were euthanized Wednesday.

"Sadly, the decision had to be made to euthanize the remaining whales to avoid prolonging their suffering," the Western Australia Parks and Wildlife Service said.

It added: "It was a difficult decision for all involved, however the welfare of the whales had to take precedence."


Some 250 volunteers and another 100 wildlife officers, consisting of Perth Zoo veterinarians and marine fauna experts, assisted in the effort to move the whales back into the water. By Wednesday afternoon, a storm lashed the beach with wind and rain, endangering the volunteers.

Peter Hartley, a manager of the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions who oversaw the response, said Thursday the decision to euthanize the surviving whales was "incredibly hard."

"Probably one of the hardest decisions of my 34 years of wildlife management. Really, really difficult," Hartley told reporters in Albany.

Hartley added: "It was a considered and well thought out decision. And you know, we thank the support of the ... veterinarians that assisted with the assessments and the advice that they gave me to make that decision."

Two volunteers were treated by paramedics for hypothermia, Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported.


The Western Australia Parks and Wildlife Service thanked the officials and volunteers for their efforts.

Wildlife experts are not sure why beaching occurs, but said stress, illness, or even the presence of predators could help explain the phenomenon.

The current beached pod of whales was first spotted Tuesday morning swimming off the coast of Albany. As the day progressed, the pod moved closer to the beach, sparking concern of conservation officers. By 4 p.m., the pod covered the shoreline.

Pilot whales are highly social animals who often maintain close relationships with their pods, so even after getting the whales back into the water volunteers still have to encourage the worried whales to swim away.

In September 2022, some 200 pilot whales died after a pod stranded itself on the Australian state of Tasmania, an island located off Australia's southeastern coast.

The following month, nearly 500 pilot whales died after stranding themselves in New Zealand.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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