Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hundreds of whales rescued in Philippines


BALANGA, Philippines (AFP) - - Fishermen and volunteers in the Philippines managed to rescue more than 200 beached whales on Tuesday by guiding them back into deep water, officials said.

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Residents of seaside towns west of Manila raised the alarm early in the day when they saw a large pod of melon-headed whales in shallow water.

Three of the whales were later found dead and authorities feared others would die unless they could be guided into deeper water.

The head of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Malcolm Sarmiento initially said on local radio and television the stranded mammals were dolphins, but experts told AFP they were in fact melon-headed whales.

Mariel Flores, a veterinarian, said melon-headed whales were "easily mistaken for dolphins because of their size and their teeth, which resemble those of dolphins."

Government marine biologist Rizza Salinas said the mammals, which travel in pods of 100 or more, may have been disorientated by damage to their hearing caused by illegal dynamite fishing in the area.

Another theory was that they reacted to a major underwater earthquake.

Authorities said they had managed to guide most of the stranded mammals back into deeper water and away from the shore.

The whales were said late Tuesday to be heading back into open water, although one was taken to a nearby marine park for observation by veterinarians.

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