Forty-six whales stranded on a beach on the Indonesian island of Madura have died, while rescuers managed to push three back out to sea, the provincial governor said.
A rescue effort was launched as early as Thursday after dozens of pilot whales beached. Volunteers pushed some back out to sea, while the remains of the dead whales were expected to be buried on Saturday.
“But some came back here, trying to find their mothers, though it turns out the mothers are dead,” East Java Governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa said.
Video footage on Friday showed whales dotted across a wide area with local residents wading in ankle-deep water, some trying to splash water on them or push them out to sea, while others took photos while mounting the stranded animals.
The governor told the Reuters news agency that authorities planned to bury the dead whales on Saturday once the tide had receded and said two excavators had been brought in.
It is not fully understood why whales, which travel together in pods, beach themselves but they are known to follow a leader, as well as gather around an injured or distressed whale.
Whale Stranding Indonesia, a non-governmental organisation, said that in 2020 more than 70 marine mammals were found stranded, including dugongs.
Last year, a 29-metre (95-foot) blue whale washed up in Kupang, attracting thousands of spectators.
In 2018, a 9.5-metre (31-foot) sperm whale also washed up in Indonesia’s Kapota island.
The cause of the death was unknown, but residents found 5.9-kg (13 pounds) of plastic in its stomach. According to reports, the plastic items found included flip flops and plastic bags.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the US, other threats whales face include being struck by sea vessels or getting entangled in fishing nets.