More than 150 whales strand themselves on Western Australian beach

Only 15 whales have survived a mass stranding event in Western Australia.

Only 15 short-finned pilot whales are alive after a mass stranding event which saw more than 150 of them stranded on the West Australian coast.

Volunteers, veterinarian staff and wildlife officers made their way to Hamelin Bay early on Friday morning, working to ensure their survival. 

But by 12 p.m., many of the whales had already died, with winds and a swell from a tropical cyclone proving a challenge for workers hoping to move the surviving animals back to water.

“Unfortunately, most of the whales beached themselves on dry land overnight and have not survived,” incident controller Jeremy Chick said in a statement online.

“There are only 15 surviving in shallow waters and we hope to move them out to sea later today … Rescue operations will be hampered by deteriorating, weather conditions and we need to ensure the safety of everyone involved before we move the whales.”

The beach remains closed, and authorities have warned of sharks in the area. 

Short-finned pilot whales often strand themselves en masse, according to WA Parks and Wildlife. The deadliest whale stranding in Western Australia occurred in 1996, when 320 long-finned pilot whales were found beached in the south western town of Dunsborough. 

A similar event occurred at New Zealand’s Farewell Spit back in February 2017, where 416 long-finned pilot whales were stranded in one of the country’s worst incidences. 

WA Parks and Wildlife Service officers have taken DNA samples from the deceased whales at Hamelin Bay for clues as to why whales strand themselves.

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