15 Pilot Whales Perish In Mass Stranding At The Kyle Of Durness
PRESS ASSOCIATION -- Fifteen pilot whales died in a mass stranding at one of the UK'S most northerly locations.
Rescuers trying to save a pod of around 60 whales at the Kyle of Durness said the whales had perished when they stranded at low tide.
Around 35 members of the pod beached as the water in the sea loch receded. Some 20 of them were refloated to deeper water using inflatable pontoons as the water returned, but the remainder had died, said the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR).
The charity said many of the whales had stranded on their sides, on top of each other and upside down and were breathing in sand. A further 20 are thought to be in deeper water and not in imminent danger.
On Friday three pilot whales, including a calf, beached on the shore of the loch. The coastguard and navy are assisting in the effort to get the whales back to sea.
Pilot whales are known to prefer deep water but come inshore to feed on squid, their main food. A wildlife expert said the main reason for this is that they live in very tightly-knit social groups.
The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) International head of Science Mark Simmonds said: "As they try to help each other, they may all come ashore.
He said the situation in the Kyle of Durness looked like a "whale trap". He said it was "a narrow and potentially confusing body of water with many soft sandbank areas that may confound their echolocation abilities".
He said: "Something may have startled the group further out to sea and they panicked, came into this unusual situation and were unable to find their way out. The stranding of one or two animals would possibly cause distress and the others in the group would try to assist the stranded individuals and themselves get into trouble.
"Stranding on rocks will wound the whales quickly but even on a soft sandy shore it is still a race against time for experts to try to get them back into the water and even then there may be a problem of persuading the group to go back into the open sea."