Rescue efforts to rescue dozens of stranded pilot whales but 46 died while only three were returned to sea.
Forty-six whales stranded on a beach on the Indonesian island of Madura have died while rescuers managed to bring three whales back to sea, the provincial governor said.
A rescue operation was launched on Thursday after dozens of pilot whales were stranded. Volunteers pushed some back into the sea while the remains of the dead whales are expected to be buried on Saturday.
“But some came back here and tried to find their mothers, even though the mothers turned out to be dead,” said East Java Governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa.
Video footage on Friday showed whales scattered over a large area and residents wading in ankle-deep water. Some tried to splash water on them or push them out into the ocean, while others took photos while boarding the stranded animals.
The governor told Reuters that authorities planned to bury the dead whales on Saturday once the tide subsided and that two dredgers had been brought in.
It is not fully understood why whales traveling together in pods beach themselves but are known to follow a leader and gather around an injured or distressed whale.
Whale Stranding Indonesia, a non-governmental organization, said more than 70 marine mammals were found stranded in 2020, including dugongs.
Last year, a 29-meter-long blue whale washed up in Kupang, drawing thousands of spectators.
In 2018, a 9.5 meter long sperm whale washed up on the Indonesian island of Kapota.
The cause of death was unknown, but residents found 5.9 kg of plastic in the stomach. Flip-flops and plastic bags were reportedly found, among other things.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the United States, there is a risk of whales being hit by ocean-going vessels or entangled in fishing nets.