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article image33 whales die on Irish beach

By Lynn Curwin     Nov 8, 2010 in Environment
Thirty-three long-finned pilot whales died after becoming stranded on a beach in County Donegal, Ireland. It is one of the biggest mass deaths of whales in Irish history.
The dead mammals were discovered on Saturday on Rutland Island.
The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) said the whales may have been the same ones which people feared were going to strand off of northern Scotland a week ago.
They were monitored by the British Coastguard and Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) until they left the area.
Ferry owner Seamus Boyle told The Irish Times that a member of his crew noticed the carcasses on the uninhabited island from his own boat.
“We had been watching them since last Monday,” he said. “We hadn’t seen them since Thursday, however, and so we believe the stranding happened some time between then and the weekend.”
He said they had not been dead long because there were still marks in the sand from their tails.
A team from the IWDG and the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) worked with National Parks and Wildlife Service rangers to take tissue samples from the whales. These will be sent to the Irish Cetacean Genetic Tissue Bank at the Natural History Museum in Dublin.
They reported that there was only one calf among those stranded.
Emear McGee, one of the rangers at the scene, said that long-finned pilot whales are an offshore species, and some of them were probably sick when they came ashore.
“They all stay together so healthy ones come ashore with the sick ones, and because they’re a very strong social group the sick and the healthy die together,” she said in an RTE News video.
Dr Simon Berrow, of the IWDG, has concerns that Royal Navy sonar equipment could have affected the whales’ navigational skills, but a navy spokesman said that when the whales were spotted near South Uist, their closest ship was 50 miles away.
The navy has previously denied that sonar from their ships could cause whales to beach.
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