Two short-fin pilot whales. (Photo : life-sea.blogspot.com)
In a bizarre occurrence, 22 pilot whales beached themselves onto Avalon Beach State Park in St. Lucie. While most of the whale pod died, five young ones are being cared for at Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Institute for rehabilitation by being fed fish drinks so that they can one day return to their home in the ocean.
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The five surviving pilot whales whales are two calves and three juveniles. The youngest of them is a two-year-old female whose mother did not survive the rescue.
"They've all been through a pretty stressful ordeal. We've seen each of them, at one point or another, have a little bit of trouble and need a little bit of help," said Dr. Michelle Davis, senior veterinarian for SeaWorld Orlando.
After an initial recovery period, the rescue team hopes to move the five surviving pilot whales to the SeaWorld in Orlando.
Experts and scientists involved in the rescue effort aren't exactly sure why the whale pod beached themselves.
The whales beached themselves approximately before 9 a.m., and many locals came out to help by pouring water over them.
"Hundreds of Treasure Coast residents converged on Avalon Beach State Park Saturday in what became an all-day struggle to rescue a pod of short-fin pilot whales that stranded themselves in the surf," wrote the Palm Beach Post.
Helping beached whales can be tough, because of the tight social structure between the animals. Simply helping them back into the water isn't good enough - if one member is still sick and ashore, then the rest will simply come back to the wounded member.
Pilot whales are the most common beached whale species in Florida, according to Blair Mase, stranding coordinator for the Southeast Region with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.