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Monday 22 September 2014

Four pilot whales die after pod of 13 washes up on Donegal beach

The incident is the 13th stranding reported on Donegal shores this year

Published 07/07/2014 | 12:14

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The pod of pilot whales on Falcarragh beach. Photo: BarryWhyte85

Four pilot whales have died and nine have been rescued after a pod was washed onto a beach off Donegal.

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A group of about 100 locals went to the rescue after they were spotted on the strand at Falcarragh, Co Donegal this morning.

One of the whales, which was eventually successfully refloated, appeared to have blemishes and lumps on its skin suggesting it may have been ill and led the pod into the shallow waters.

Rescuers tied ropes to the back fins of the five metre long whales and dragged them off the sand into shallow waters, staying with them until they revived.

Seamus O'Domhnaill, a local councillor involved in the rescue, said the whales' conditions improved as the tide began to come in quickly.

"It's not something you want to see everyday," he said.

"The difficulty was that their intention seemed to be to want to come back in. They were barely alive but once they were in the water they came around and were in a better condition when we started to guide them to sea.

"When we got them out so far a few groups of us got around the whales and kept guiding them out."

The stranding was discovered at 8 am.

The four dead whales were lifted off the beach to higher ground on diggers to prevent the rescued whales trying to come back in to find them.

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) said the incident is the 13th stranding reported on Donegal shores this year.

There has only been one other live stranding in the county when a harbour porpoise was refloated at Lough Foyle in February.

Live strandings of pods of pilot whales are not unknown but relatively rare with one of the last major incidents in Ireland in November 2010 when 33 pilot whales live stranded and died at Rutland Island, Co Donegal.

The IWDG, which was alerted to the incident, said even with pleny of help, experience and specialised equipment such as pontoons it is difficult to successfully refloat creatures that size.

Mr O'Domhnaill praised the spirit of the locals.

"This was a sign of community activism. There were about 100 people on the beach, some helping, some not, but none of us with much experience of this," he said.

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