Sat, Apr 27, 2019 - Page 2 News List

Rescuers save five stranded pygmy whales

PRECIOUS CARGO:The most difficult part of the operation was keeping the whales safe and wet while transporting them to a pool, a marine specialist said

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

Coast Guard Administration officers care for stranded pygmy killer whales during a rescue mission in Kaohsiung’s Cijin District on Thursday.

Photo copied by Hung Ting-hung, Taipei Times

Rescuers early yesterday saved five pygmy killer whales that were stranded in Kaohsiung’s Cijin District (旗津), but another whale died shortly after rescuers arrived, the Ocean Conservation Administration (OCA) said.

Several fishers reported spotting a group of 20 to 30 cetaceans near the district’s coast on Thursday afternoon and coast guard personnel at 7pm reported that six whales were stranded, the agency said.

The whales are about 2m in length and their ages have yet to be determined, Marine Conservation Division senior specialist Ko Yung-chuan (柯勇全) said.

Upon learning about the stranding, the agency promptly activated its marine animal rescue network — comprised of National Cheng Kung University Marine Biology and Cetacean Research Center members, the Kaohsiung Marine Bureau and volunteers, it said.

The rescue operation lasted until 1am yesterday, the agency said.

An autopsy would be performed on the dead whale, Ko said.

The rescued whales were transported to the center’s pool and they appear to be healthy, he said, adding that they were strong enough to swim yesterday morning.

The animals might have become stranded while accompanying weaker whales as they searched for food, Ko said.

The most challenging part of the rescue operation was transporting the whales to the pool while keeping them safe and wet, he said.

The rescuers decided which whales to save first based on their survival chances, Ko said, adding that OCA Director-General Huang Hsiang-wen (黃向文) and center director Wang Chien-ping (王建平) were among the main decisionmakers.

The center cannot house any more cetaceans at its pool, and the agency has contacted the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium, as well as fishers and private companies in southern Taiwan, to ask if they have pools to shelter stranded animals, he added.

Two more whales were found dead in the waters near the district’s coast at 5am, but the agency has not gathered sufficient information about them, Ko said.

The agency said it is preparing for more strandings.

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