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May 31, 2009

Sad scenes of beached false killer whales at Kommetjie, Cape Town

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A tragedy unfolded on the beach of Kommetjie this weekend: 55 false killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens) had beached themselves early on Saturday morning. False killer whales travel in groups called pods consisting of 20 to 100 individuals, although pods of several hundred have been recorded.

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I went late afternoon and saw many beached whales. Some had died out of sheer stress, others had been shot in the head as this was deemed to be the kindest way to release them from certain but painful death. They were bleeding but I saw some still alive in the water too.

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This poor chap didn’t make it…. I found it a rather distressing scene.

False killer whales are fast, active swimmers, and intelligent animals. They have large, conical teeth as you can see in the above photo.

Yesterday was not the first time false killer whales beached themselves at Kommetjie. According to Encounter magazine: “The first appearance of the false killer in South Africa was on Cristmas Eve, 1928. A school of about a hundred flung themselves on to the beach at Kommetjie, near the Cape of Good Hope. Kindly people tried to save some by carrying and guiding them back towards deeper water. As soon as they regained their strength, they would simply leap on to the beach once more. Since then, false killer whales have been racing to death on beaches as far apart as Zanzibar and Tasmania.”

According to an Associated Press article published by Media24.com, officials and volunteers struggled throughout the day to help the whales back into the sea, mostly to no avail as they kept making a u-turn and re-beaching themselves.

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These people must have felt frozen, it was already cold for me standing in my three layers of clothes on the beach it certainly shows their dedication.

What a stunning place to die but how cruel yet how exquisitely beautiful is our Mother Nature.

This is an edited version of a blog post by Joanne, republished here with her kind permission. Please visit her blog and read the full version of the post and see more pictures. Photographs © Joanne 2009, all rights reserved.

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