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Stranded whales shot in Australia

March 26, 2009|Associated Press

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA — Veterinarians shot the last three of a group of whales that stranded themselves for a second time on a remote Australian beach, saying there was no hope of saving them.

Three others in the group of six died before rescuers could reach them, an official said today.

The six long-finned pilot whales that died Wednesday were part of a pod of 10 that rescuers guided back out to sea Tuesday.

But less than a day later, surveillance aircraft spotted the six on a beach about four miles from where they had been released. Two were already dead and one died while environment officials and veterinarians were on the way to the area.

Veterinarians shot the remaining three animals because they were in such poor condition.

The whales were too large for lethal injections.

"It's obviously disappointing," said a Western Australia state conservation department officer, Aminya Ennis. "But we understand that [the whales getting stranded again] was always a possibility."

The other four whales from the pod of 10 are believed to still be at sea. The department said it would continue to monitor the coast and the ocean to verify their safety.

The whales were part of a group of about 90 whales and five bottlenose dolphins that became stranded on a beach in Western Australia state early Monday. Most of the animals died, but rescuers were able to push four dolphins and four whales out to sea and take 10 surviving whales by trucks to access deeper waters Tuesday.

The mass beaching was the fifth in Australia in as many months; nearly 500 whales have died.

Scientists say the types of whales that beach themselves are social groups that follow other pod members into danger. But they cannot explain what draws them so close to shore.

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