Over 140 melon-headed whales feared dead in Japan

Published April 11, 2015
Tokyo: An aerial view of melon-headed dolphins stranded on the coast on Friday.—Reuters
Tokyo: An aerial view of melon-headed dolphins stranded on the coast on Friday.—Reuters

HOKOTA (Japan): Rescuers were forced to abandon efforts to save around 150 melon-headed whales that stranded on a beach in Japan on Friday, after frantically trying all day to save them.

As darkness fell, local officials in Hokota, about 100 kilometres northeast of Tokyo, said they had been able to save only three of the 149 animals that had beached and that the rescue effort had been called off.

The rest of the creatures, a member of the dolphin family usually found in the deep ocean, had either died or were dying, they said.

“It was becoming dark and too dangerous to continue the rescue work at this beach, where we could not bring heavy equipment,” said an unnamed Hokota city official.

“Many people volunteered to rescue them but the dolphins became very, very weak”. “Only three of them have been successfully returned to the sea, as far as we can confirm,” he added.

Locals and coastguard teams had battled through the day to save the animals, trying to stop their skin from drying out as they lay on the sand. Others were carried in slings back towards the ocean.

Television footage showed several animals from the large pod had been badly cut, and many had deep gashes to their skin.

A journalist at the scene said that some of the creatures were being pushed back onto the beach by the tide soon after being released, despite efforts to return them to the water.

“We see one or two whales washing ashore a year, but this may be the first time we have found over 100 of them on a beach,” a coastguard official said.

The pod was stretched out along a roughly 10-kilometre-long stretch of beach in the Ibaraki area, where they were found by locals early Friday morning.

“They are alive. I feel sorry for them,” one man at the scene told public broadcaster NHK, as others ferried buckets of seawater to the stranded animals to pour over them.

Massive efforts were required to get the three that survived back into the water.

Published in Dawn, April 11th, 2015

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