All but one of an entire pod of 55 pilot whales has died after a tragic mass stranding on a beach in the Western Isles, off Scotland.
The mammals were discovered on Traigh Mhor beach on the Isle of Lewis at 7am on Sunday 16 July, and members of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) were soon on the scene, along with Stornaway Coastguard, Stornoway and Shawbost Fire and Rescue, the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS), the Scottish SPCA, and Civil Air Support, as well as members of the Lewis community.
Sadly, only 15 of the whales were still alive after being washed ashore. There were attempts to refloat two of the whales that were still in the water on the outgoing tide, but one subsequently restranded and died later on, however the other did make it back into deeper waters and swam off. Unfortunately, three more died as the day went on, and by mid-afternoon, the decision was made to euthanise the remaining animals, which by this time had been out of the water for a long period.
Pilot whales are known to be highly social mammals, and when one member of the pod gets into difficulties and is stranded, the rest can often follow and end up in the same predicament. After the discovery that one of the dead whales appeared to have had a vaginal prolapse, it is suspected that the whole pod may have stranded due to one female giving birth.
Photo credit: Mairi Robertson-Carrey and Cristina McAvoy