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Whales beached in Australia are euthanized after rescue efforts fail

In this photo provided by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, a rescuer tends to a long-finned pilot whale, Wednesday, July 26, 2023, after nearly 100 whales beached themselves at Cheynes Beach east of Albany, Australia.
AP
In this photo provided by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, a rescuer tends to a long-finned pilot whale, Wednesday, July 26, 2023, after nearly 100 whales beached themselves at Cheynes Beach east of Albany, Australia.

MANILA, Philippines — The race to save the dozens of pilot whales still alive after a pod of nearly 100 stranded themselves on a beach in Australia two days ago is now over, with wildlife officials saying they will euthanize the survivors.

The pod stranded itself on Tuesday on Cheynes Beach near the city of Albany in Western Australia. More than 50 of them died overnight and officials and hundreds of volunteers worked throughout Wednesday in an attempt to save the ones that had survived.

At one point, after hours of work, the volunteers managed to get the remaining whales pushed back into the shallows, but the pod only re-stranded itself farther down the beach.

By the evening, veterinarians along with officials with the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions decided to euthanize the remaining whales.

"Sadly, the decision had to be made to euthanise the remaining whales to avoid prolonging their suffering," the Parks and Wildlife Service of Western Australia wrote on its Facebook page. "It was a difficult decision for all involved, however the welfare of the whales had to take precedence. We thank everyone who assisted with the attempt to save the whales over the last two days."

Wildlife experts say pilot whales are very social animals and stranding themselves could indicate illness or stress within the pod, The Associated Press reported.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Ashley Westerman is a producer who occasionally directs the show. Since joining the staff in June 2015, she has produced a variety of stories including a coal mine closing near her hometown, the 2016 Republican National Convention, and the Rohingya refugee crisis in southern Bangladesh. She is also an occasional reporter for Morning Edition, and NPR.org, where she has contributed reports on both domestic and international news.