On Wednesday, 32 whales were found stranded on the coast of East Java by local residents in Probolinggo; at least eight of which have since died. The mass stranding prompted hundreds of rescuers to join in efforts to return these giant mammals back to the sea.
The whales, which were later identified as short-finned pilot, came ashore during high tide and were possibly stranded due to changes in sea temperature. Most of them tried returning to the deep sea but ended up being back on the shore as one got stuck, leaving the rest trapped by the low tide.
In a statement to AFP, Head of the local maritime and fisheries office Dedy Isfandi revealed that whales will swim to the shore if they get sick and that they have the tendency to stick together at all cost:
“But whales have such high social interaction – when one fell ill, they approached the sick one to swim back to sea … when the tide fell all of them were trapped.”
The stranding motivated local fishermen, government officials and a team of environmental activists to help return these whales back to the sea and prevent them from being further washed ashore.
Rescuers tried using tarps to wrap around the beached whales and dragged them back out to sea, although most of them eventually got away on their own.
Astounded by this mass stranding, a crowd of local residents came to witness the rare phenomenon and many turned to their phones to take pictures. Children were even seen playing with the poor whales. The dead ones were taken for burial as their stranding was believed to be the end of their journey:
“What do you expect us to do? If they are still alive, we will surely help them return to deep sea. The dead ones, we must bury them,” said village chief Sanemo as reported by The Jakarta Post.
While scientists are conducting autopsies on the dead whales to discover the reason behind their stranding, fishery officials suspect intoxication or turbulent waters in the Indian Ocean to be the main causes.