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May 30, 2009

Whales beach at Kommetjie, Cape Town

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Rescue workers battle to save pilot whales beached at Kommetjie in Cape Town, Saturday 30 May 2009. Photo courtesy Earth Times

More than 50 pilot whales beached at Kommetjie in Cape Town this morning.

News outlets countrywide are reporting the tragedy, while the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) is attempting to keep the animals alive. By lunchtime on Saturday, three of the gentle giants had already died.

The NSRI was also appealing to concerned Capetonians to stay away from Kommetjie, so they could get on with the rescue effort.

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A whale’s carcass at Kommetjie in 2005. Photo courtesy k_o_b_i_e

“Efforts are being made to get them out to sea as well as determine what caused the [mass stranding],” NSRI Spokesperson Craig Lambinon told the South African Press Association (Sapa).

According to a Sapa article published on the Independent Newspapers’ online news site, Lambinon said the whales starting coming ashore at about 7.30am, and that by mid-morning, more were still coming ashore.

Cape Town is one of the world’s best whale-watching spots, with many species including southern right whales, humpback whales and pilot whales, also known as “false killer whales”, gracing its shores.

Over the years, whales have beached on occasion at Kommetjie and elsewhere in the Cape Town area, but never in this volume before.

No-one knows for sure why whales beach themselves. Possible reasons include that their ability to navigate becomes impaired somehow, that they are sick or injured, or in the case of many beached whales, may be responding to the distress calls of those already beached.

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