All but six of more than 150 short-finned pilot whales that stranded themselves on a beach in Western Australia have died, despite efforts from authorities and local beachgoers to save them, officials said on Saturday.
There was a previously recorded mass stranding in 1996, when 320 long-finned pilot whales stranded themselves just north of Hamelin Bay and died.
The beached whales were spotted by a commercial fisherman early on Friday morning. A rescue operation was under way to try to direct the survivors to the open sea.
"[Volunteers] seem to drag them up onto the beach, get them the right way up and then they seem to revive", Brickle said.
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Most of the whales did not survive after beaching themselves, according to Jeremy Chick, incident controller at Western Australia's Parks & Wildlife Service.
The 145 carcasses were being removed and authorities were taking DNA samples to understand why the whales beached.
'It is possible the dead and dying animals will act as an attractant, which could lead to sharks coming close into shore along this stretch of coast, ' the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development said.
A group of experts and volunteers went to Hamelin Bay, around 315 km south of Perth, to assess the situation and attempt to rescue around 50 whales still alive on the beach and another 25 stuck in shallow waters, Efe news reported.
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Efforts were underway Friday evening to move the seven surviving whales to deeper water, the department said on Twitter.
Parks and Wildlife Service staff are being assisted by vets, Sea Search and Rescue, and more than 100 volunteers. "This has often been the case in previous mass strandings", the department wrote.
"I think initially it was confronting for most people because so numerous whales had already died but everyone went into hands on mode and tried to help the ones that could be rescued".
It is the second biggest beaching incident in WA's history, with 147 of them confirmed dead.
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"Short-finned pilot whales are listed as "data deficient" on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species".