More Than 130 Whales Dead After West African Mass Stranding Event

At least 136 melon-headed are dead after a stranding event off the coast of last week, according to BIOS.CV.

Dozens of volunteers from local agencies assisted in relocating a total of 163 adult, juvenile, and calf whales back into the after they were discovered on September on the of Boa .

“Unfortunately, upon being re-introduced in the , most of the animals stranded again,” wrote the organization in a post.

Officials are working to the individuals to “prevent any environmental and hazards,” said BIOS.CV in an update posted on September 26. Samples were taken from 50 of the whales and another four individuals were for future examination by veterinarians.

Though the International Union for Conservation of Nature considers melon-headed whales a species of least concern, the toothed are threatened by a number of concerns including habitat changes from , ocean noise, and fisheries bycatch. Closely related to pygmy sperm whales and false killer whales, Peponocephala electra are often found in deep tropical waters around the globe, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). They typically live together in groups of hundreds to over 1,000 individuals.

Researchers are still unclear as to what caused the whales to beach themselves.

 

In recent years, a number of mass stranding have occurred around the . Last November saw several , including two pods of pilot whales, totaling 145 individuals, dead after stranding on Zealand shores. Just three days later, a humpback and 27 whales were found beached in Australia. this year, at least 50 pilot whales were found dead on a remote beach in after possibly becoming in a strong tidal current that prevented them from reaching deeper waters. Since the beginning of 2019, at least 70 gray whales have washed up along the of , from southward to – so many that NOAA has run out of space to bury decomposing carcasses. 

Mass mortality events and whale strandings are becoming more common than before and the why is unclear. This could in part be due to the that protections in the last few decades have increased whale populations in waters around the world. , it could be due to external factors such as or extreme . Cetaceans also become stranded after being chased into shallower waters by or when chasing prey, increasing the likelihood that they become disoriented and caught by a retreating tide. Furthermore, studies have suggested that naval sonar could impact whales’ ability to navigate via echolocation, perhaps even giving them decompression sickness.

Even after intervention, many whales die from dehydration and can drown if the tide rises over their blowholes.

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