Fresh hope for stranded Florida whales

Dec 06, 2013
More than 40 pilot whales are shown stranded in shallow water on December 4, 2013 in a remote region of Florida's Everglades National Park, as rescuers race to save them after 11 others from the pod died

Thirty-five pilot whales stranded in a remote part of Florida's Everglades National Park headed toward deeper waters, raising hopes that they could be saved.

Eleven whales have died since the mass stranding was first reported Tuesday after an additional carcass was found. Four of them had to be euthanized.

Another six that went missing overnight Wednesday are feared dead and their bodies may have sunk to the bottom of the ocean floor.

It remains unclear why they strayed into water less than three feet (0.9 meters) deep, in the southern part of the Sunshine State.

"Today we are hopefully more optimistic after a Coast Guard helicopter spotted 35 of the... surviving whales swimming in three separate pods near Plover Key in 18 feet of water this morning," Everglades National Park spokeswoman Mary Plumb told AFP.

"They were in , so they are in better conditions to survive."

Her hopeful outlook was a remarkable development just hours after Blair Mase, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, warned of "low" expectations, and said the potential for a successful rescue mission "does not look good."

A rescue team of experts from several agencies, including the National Park Service and the US Coast Guard, grew from 25 to 35 scientists and stranding specialists who can only reach the whales by boat.

But NOAA stressed that the rescuers were treading cautiously as sharks have been seen feeding on the dead whales' carcasses.

"The rescue team positioned 15 boats to help guide the whales to deeper water, which was a distance of 10 to 15 miles (16 to 24 kilometers), and the whales have been moving in the right direction," NOAA Fisheries said.

"The rescue team is encouraged that the whales have been moving offshore today, but is still uncertain about what the whales will do overnight."

By 2:30 pm (1930 GMT), the whales were six miles offshore and swimming in about 18 feet (5.5 meters) of water.

Experts and animal welfare organizations have speculated about why the whales swam to these warm, shallow waters, suggesting possible disorientation after a maritime explosion or a disorder caused by environmental pollution that leads to suicide.

"The possibles causes of this situation are still unknown for us. Marine biologists said that is hard to know why they behave like that," Plumb said.

"Pilot are very cohesive among them, and usually travel in big family groups."

Everglades National Park provides a unique habitat for a range of species, including crocodiles.

Explore further: Telling the time of day by color

Related Stories

Ninety whales stranded on New Zealand beach

Jan 23, 2012

A pod of 90 pilot whales have beached themselves at the top of New Zealand's South island, in the same area where seven whales died in a mass stranding earlier this month, according to officials.

Recommended for you

Telling the time of day by color

17 hours ago

Research by scientists at The University of Manchester has revealed that the colour of light has a major impact on how the brain clock measures time of day and on how the animals' physiology and behavior adjust accordingly. ...

Aphrodisiac for fish and frogs discovered

23 hours ago

A supplement simply added to water has been shown to boost reproduction in nematodes (roundworms), molluscs, fish and frogs – and researchers believe it could work for humans too.

Evolution puts checks on virgin births

23 hours ago

It seems unnatural that a species could survive without having sex. Yet over the ages, evolution has endowed females of certain species of amphibians, reptiles and fish with the ability to clone themselves, ...

Humans can't resist those puppy-dog eyes

Apr 16, 2015

When humans and their four-legged, furry best friends look into one another's eyes, there is biological evidence that their bond strengthens, researchers report.

Roundworm parasite targets canine eyes

Apr 16, 2015

(HealthDay)—A small number of dogs and cats across the United States have been infected by a roundworm parasite that targets the eye, according to a new report.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.