All but one of the pod of false killer whales that beached on a Phuket islet have successfully been assisted back to sea.
It’s believed to be the first mass beaching of whales in Thailand.
Rescue workers have been trying to get the mammals back to open waters since Thursday. They say none of them now appears to be returning to the shallows.
Locals on Racha Yai reported the unprecedented 30 beached whales on the west of the islet on Thursday evening.
Weighing at least 300 kilograms each, they were unable to refloat themselves.
Phuket Marine Biological Centre staff went to the whales’ aid.
“Such a mass stranding has never happened in Thailand before,” Kanjana Adulyanu-kosol, head of the centre’s Rare Marine Animal unit, says.
Helped by staff of a nearby resort, the centre managed to get 20 whales back to sea almost immediately.
Brought back to health
However, 10 were considered too weak to swim in the rough seas off the exposed and rocky coast.
Cranes and lorries were used to transport the whales to the sheltered eastern side of the island.
Veterinarian Sonthaya Manawattana administered sedatives and nutrition. Nine recovered.
“Their breathing was normal, and they no longer showed signs of stress,” Kanjana says. “We were able to get these whales back to sea by midnight”.
One whale died. The centre will conduct a post mortem to discover the cause of death, although Sonthaya says shock is the likely cause.
Kanjana says the whales may have been forced ashore by the heavy seas or they may have become disoriented. Other causes for the beaching are viruses or marine survey signals.
“But the most likely scenario is that the pod leader misled them into shallow waters. With strong winds and their enormous weight, it was impossible for them to retreat,” Kanjana explains.