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Volunteers save 13 beached pilot whales in Western Australia
PERTH, Australia (AFP) Apr 04, 2005
Dozens of volunteers and marine wildlife experts worked through the night to save 13 pilot whales stranded on a west Australia beach, officials said on Monday.

Nineteen of the long-finned pilot whales measuring up to 6.5 metersfeet) in length were found beached early Sunday at Busselton, 230 kilometers (140 miles) south of Perth.

Four were already dead and despite the efforts of more than 120 people to move the marine mammals back to sea, two others died before night-fall.

But rescuers and veterinarians from the Department of Conservation and Land Management backed up by volunteers in the water and on surfboards worked throughout the night to save the remaining 13 by herding them out to sea.

"It was wonderful," conservation spokesman Neil Taylor told the Australian Associated Press from a boat following the whales off shore.

"When we started out we had surfboards and swimmers with them and they went 150 meters off the beach," he said.

"Then there was a little zodiac boat nipping around at their tails to keep them going out to where there were the bigger boats."

It is not rare for pilot whales, members of the dolphin family of Cetacea, to beach themselves but theories about why they become stranded differ.

"One of the reasons suspected for stranding is that because they're social if one of the pod is sick or injured then the others come to shore to protect it and nurture it and they all end up stranding," Taylor said.

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