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See a Rescue Effort to Save 10 Stranded Whales
Scientists aren’t sure why the massive Sperm Whales suddenly beached themselves in Indonesia.
By Sarah Gibbens, 2017;

Saving one 40-ton Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus) is a huge feat—so when 10 live Sperm Whales washed ashore off the coast of Aceh in northeastern Indonesia, it required a small army of wildlife volunteers.

In an emailed statement from WWF Indonesia, representative Aryo Tjiptohandono said the WWF team, environmental officials from the Indonesian government, and the Indonesian Navy were dispatched to Ujung Kareng Beach on Monday morning. Posting live updates on their Facebook page, the local conservation group Whale Stranding Indonesia commented that rescue groups were working around the clock to save the Whales.

Successfully moving Whales back into the ocean requires trained professionals with the right equipment, and some luck. A Whale stranded on a beach can usually only survive a day or two before succumbing to exposure, said Heidi Pearson, a professor at the University of Alaska Southeast. Pearson has assisted with saving stranded Whales in Alaska.

“One of the main concerns is their organs collapsing under their weight,” she explained. At sea, Whales are more buoyant, but once their bodies are out of the water, gravity begins to take hold. Whales can also suffer from sunburns and dehydration.

Drone footage shot by WWF Indonesia shows a messy tangle of ropes and people struggling to wrangle the Whales from shallow waters. Tug boats were used to pull the Whales out to shore, but other rescues have been conducted using a modified stretcher and cranes.

By around midnight Indonesian time, five of the Sperm Whales were successfully floated back out to sea. Several hours later, rescuers were able to move two back to sea. Early this morning, three were pronounced dead, and one of the refloated Whales returned to shore and died.

Wildlife officials aren’t sure what caused the stranding. Accounts of Whales beaching themselves have been documented for centuries, but finding the whales still alive is less common.

“Before we could get our expert to conduct necropsies on the four carcasses, the situation on the ground was getting out of hand as masses started to swarm the area,” said Tjiptohandono. He claimed residents wanting to help swarmed the beaches, making it difficult for rescuers and researchers to move the Whales and collect samples.

Without having more detailed reports from the carcasses, it’s difficult to know exactly why the whales became stranded.

Many float to shore and become stranded when they’re sick, said Pearson. Whales have also become stranded after losing their sense of direction.

“A third reason is they’re group forming. One member of the group might strand, and the other members will also strand because their bonds are so tight,” she said. “Healthy animals will strand because they’re good friends.”

Whales have also stranded because of sonic or acoustic interference. The animals communicate via underwater sonar and calls, so large vessels or disturbances in the water can interfere with their ability to navigate.

Most frustrating, Pearson conceded, is “sometimes we just don’t know.”

While a stranding en masse is less common than an individual whale floating ashore, the event in Indonesia is far from the largest involving cetaceans. Eighty-two dolphins (False Killer Whales) (Pseudorca crassidens) mysteriously beached themselves in Florida earlier this year, and the largest stranding recorded took place in 1946, when 835 Killer Whales (Orcinus orca) beached themselves in Argentina.

In 2016, more than 30 Sperm Whales beached themselves at the edge of the North Sea. An impressively large amount of plastic was found in their bellies, but the stranding was attributed to a lost sense of direction. Sperm Whales have a huge geographic range and are found throughout the world’s oceans, but whaling during the late 19th and early 20th centuries reduced their population numbers by more than 60 percent. Today, they’re classified as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

WWF will continue to monitor the six rescued Sperm Whales in Indonesia via drone to ensure they stay safely in the water.

Source: National Geographic

Environmental activists in Indonesia tred to refloat nine beached Sperm Whales but four of them died

Indonesia: Four Sperm Whales die in Indonesia beach rescue
14th November 2017;

Four Sperm Whales (Physeter macrocephalus) stranded on a beach in Indonesia have died, a local official said Tuesday, despite frantic efforts to save the massive mammals.

The Whales were among a pod of 10 spotted by locals stranded along Ujong Krueng beach in Aceh province Monday, with one seen farther out in the water.

Rescuers tried to push the nine beached Whales back out to sea as hundreds of curious locals looked on, some snapping pictures.

Five were pushed back and survived but four died, some with their mouth agape as small waves crashed over their giant bodies.

Rescuers tied ropes to the tails of some of the mammals to pull them to deeper water.

“We had problems evacuating them due to a lack of experience and equipment,” Aceh nature conservation agency head Sapto Aji Prabowo told AFP.

“But this is a good lesson for us because Aceh is a crossing point for marine mammals so in the future we should be prepared to deal with situations like this.”

An official autopsy will be conducted on the Whales to determine the cause of death, but Prabowo said the giant gray creatures may have followed their leader to shore or lost their way.

“Usually, Sperm Whales will avoid going into deep water if they’re sick. Two of them were sick. So, we assume the leaders were sick and the others automatically followed them to the beach,” Prabowo said.

One Whale had wounds that suggested it had been injured by a coral reef, he said, adding that the four dead will be buried close to the beach.

This is the second time in the last few years that Sperm Whales have been found beached in northernmost Sumatra island, with one found dead on a beach in Banda Aceh in 2016.

Also last year, eight Pilot Whales died after a mass stranding on the coast of Indonesia’s main island of Java.

They were among a group of more than two dozen Short-finned Pilot Whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) that had come ashore during high tide.

Source: AFP, on Yahoo! News

  1. Joint personnel from various groups, along with local people, cooperate to release beached Sperm Whales stranded in Ujong Kareung, Aceh Besar regency, in Aceh on Monday, Nov. 13. At least 10 Whales were beached in the location.
  2. Local people withess several Whales stranded in Ujong Karueng Beach in Aceh Besar regency, Aceh, on Monday, Nov. 13.

Photos: Antara/Irwansyah Putra and Ampelsa

Indonesia: Four of 10 beached Whales in Aceh die
By Gemma Holiani Cahya and Hotli Simanjuntak, 14th November 2017;

Four out of 10 Sperm Whales (Physeter macrocephalus) that were beached at Ujong Kareung Beach in Aceh Besar regency in Aceh died in the early morning on Tuesday while the rest had been taken back to open waters.

Around 50 rescuers from various offices were deployed since Monday to release the Whales, with support from local people acting as volunteers.

“They were stranded in shallow waters, only two meters deep. So it was hard for us to release them,” Head of Lampulo PSDKP Basri told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

He explained that the first three Whales had died before being taken back into the sea.

“We released seven of them to the sea this morning, but one of them returned to the beach again, dead. We are still monitoring the other six, making sure they will not strand themselves again,” Basri said.

Along with three ships from the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry, local fishermen lent their boats to help with the release and monitoring of the Whales, as some of them suffered wounds after hitting rocks on the beach.

Local people had flocked to the beach since Monday to witness the stranded Whales. They took pictures and shared live video via various social media platforms.

Marine and Fisheries Campaign Coordinator for World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Indonesia Aryo Tjiptohandono told the Post that in a lot of cases, beached Whales that have been released will die due to their wounds.

“Crowd control around the area is very important to reduce the stress level of the Whales,” he said.

Source: Jakarta Post

  1. A drone camera showed nine of the 10 Whales that were stranded off the coast of Indonesia on Monday.
  2. Indonesian officials and environmental activists worked to save one of the 10 stranded Whales.

Photos: Chaideer Mahyuddin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Indonesia: A Race to Save 10 Stranded Whales
By Christina Caron, 13th November 2017;

Rescuers in Indonesia worked late into Monday night to rescue a pod of Sperm Whales (Physeter macrocephalus) that had become stranded in the shallow waters of an island near the northwest tip of Sumatra in Aceh Province.

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The 10 Whales were spotted Monday morning, according to Whale Stranding Indonesia, a marine mammal conservation organization based in Jakarta, Indonesia, that has been monitoring the rescue on its Facebook page.

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Local officials, aided by nonprofits like World Wildlife Fund Indonesia, coordinated a rescue effort using nets, tarpaulins and boats, the group said.

As daylight gave way to darkness on Ujung Kareung beach, the rescuers didn’t give up. As of about midnight local time they were still working, Whale Stranding Indonesia told The New York Times via a Facebook message.

Earlier in the day, the rescuers successfully relocated five of the Whales to deeper water, Nur Mahdi, the head of the Aceh Province marine and fisheries office in Sumatra, told The Associated Press. They are also treating two injured Whales and attempting to refloat the others, he said.

“The team seems to be determined to work during night time to release the remaining Whales,” Whale Stranding Indonesia reported.

Two more Whales were released just before sunrise, the group said, according to an official from the Center for Coastal and Marine Resources Management, the regional marine and fisheries authority in Indonesia.

Time was of the essence in this situation, in part because Whales that come near land are at risk of suffocation and organ failure.

“If you’re 60,000 pounds and your body is meant to float around then gravity can take its toll,” said Regina Asmutis-Silvia, the director of the North American office of Whale and Dolphins Conservation, a nonprofit that has assisted with whale strandings in the United States.

In addition, the shock of being stranded evokes a stress response.

“Elevated levels of adrenaline also take toll on the organs,” Ms. Asmutis-Silvia said. It’s similar to that of a human that has been in a car accident, she added.

It’s unclear why the pod of Whales swam so close to shore. Sperm Whales, which are listed as an endangered species, are the largest of the Toothed Whales. They are not usually found in waters less than 984 feet deep, and prefer areas two times deeper than that, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries.

In February, more than 650 Pilot Whales (Globicephala melas) became stranded at the northern tip of South Island in New Zealand for reasons that were also unknown, and about 400 of them died. Pathologists hoped to find answers by studying some of the dead animals.

And in April, officials said they were investigating an “alarming” number of Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) strandings along the Atlantic coast.

There are multiple reasons these events can happen, Ms. Asmutis-Silvia said, including navigational error, changes in the environment, a wayward hunt for food or tidal changes.

Sperm Whales tend to travel as a group and are unlikely to abandon their podmates.

“When they’re in tight social groups they’re in this together,” Ms. Asmutis-Silvia said.

Whales are especially important to the ecosystem, she said, because their waste fertilizes phytoplankton, the plants that produce half the world’s oxygen.

Source: New York Times

LIVE: ten (10) Sperm Whales (Physeter macrocephalus) are stranded alive at Ujung Kareng Beach, Mesjid Raya, Aceh. Info from Arie, DVM, Unsyiah Aceh via Dwi Suprapti, WWF Indonesia. Rescue effort is currently underway with, among others, BPSPL Padang. New aerial photos by WWF Indonesia, Aceh Office. The non-aerial photos are from Arie, DVM.

Source: Whale Strandings Indonesia Facebook

Foreign objects were found in the digestive system of the juvenile Sperm Whale.
Photo: Dean Ortiz

Philippines: Plastics kill marine life, BFAR warns
By Juliet C. Revita, 3rd January 2017;

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR)-Davao has again reminded the public to refrain from throwing their waste in the water as it causes serious risks on marine mammals and aquatic ecosystem.

BFAR-Davao Regional Director Fatma Idris warned the people residing in coastal areas to dispose their garbage properly and observe solid waste management to avoid causing harm on marine species.

Just before the holidays, a 38-foot juvenile Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus) beached and died at the Island Garden City of Samal. Its innards showed plastic garbage, which could’ve caused its death as it could not digest nor excrete such substances.

In the necropsy report, Idris said found inside the Whale’s stomach were cellophane bags, fish nets and hooks, a piece of coconut lumber with nail, pieces of ropes, cut pieces of steel wires, and many other plastic debris.

“That causes distress or discomfort doon sa (to the) Whale hanggang sa siya ay napadpad doon po sa coastline ng Babak at doon siya namatay (until it reached the coastline of Babak and died there),” Idris said.

The BFAR encourages mangrove planting that would help in filtering the waste in the sea and prevent the waste from going through the sea that might put the other marine resource at risk.

The bureau also discourages community from throwing their waste in the water as it can be absorb by the marine mammals.

“At the same time ’yong paglilinis ng mga community. We should be responsible enough from throwing plastics or any form sa dagat,” Idris said.

Idris added under Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, littering is an offense.

The violators can be fined from P300 to P1,000. They would also be asked to render community service and be required to pay a fine or both.

She also emphasized that it’s the Department of Interior Local Government who is the lead agency in implementing this while BFAR, Philippine Coast Guard and maritime groups are only the partner agencies.

The body of the Whale was already buried and will be excavated after a year to extract its bones, which will be displayed at Island Garden of City of Samal (Igacos) museum.

It’s not just marine mammals that can die from plastic garbage. In several occasions, necropsied marine Turtles are found with their digestive system filled with plastics.

Source: Sun.Star

Philippines: Beached Sperm Whale in Davao killed by garbage
By Timothy James Dimacali, 20th December 2016;

A Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus) that washed ashore in Davao del Norte last weekend was found to have died from ingesting human garbage, according to a report on GMA News To Go.

Sperm Whales are listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The 38.8-foot (11.8-meter) long creature, about the size of a transit bus, was killed by just an armload full of plastic trash that had choked up its digestive system.

The Whale was reportedly found by locals last Saturday, December 17. It was subsequently autopsied by Darrell Blatchley of the local D’ Bone Collector Museum.

The grueling 28-hour autopsy found plastic trash and fishing nets in the animal’s guts.

“(That’s) all it takes to kill a Whale,” Darrell said on his Facebook page.

“Some call them monsters of the deep. The monster is the person who killed it by being lazy and tossing their trash in the ocean,” he added.

Blatchley founded the D’ Bone Collector museum in 2012 to help raise public awareness of the need for wildlife protection and conservation.

Source: GMA News Online