Witnessing the struggles of a live beached whale is undeniably sad and daunting. There are several reasons why a live whale may get stranded ashore, and although they run the risk dying from fatal dehydration, getting beached isn't always a death sentence. An orca in Scotland, for example, was recently saved by a group of altruistic locals, who worked together to get the frightened whale back in the water.
Keep reading for the seriously inspiring story about the group Scottish locals who saved a beached orca, the reasons why orcas get stranded, and how to save a beached whale, in case you ever happen to cross paths with one.
Here's what happened to the Scottish orca who successfully made it back to sea:
Whales are a relatively common sight to see around Scotland's Orkney Islands, but a beached whale is pretty rare. That being said, locals were shocked when an orca washed ashore the Bay of Newark, according to EcoWatch, but volunteers, local residents, and conservation group British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) teamed up to save the probably-terrified creature. The orca, an 11-foot-long male, was initially spotted from a distance, and was at first thought to be a dolphin.
Regardless, the BDMLR team was called to the scene, and when they arrived, they properly identified the creature as an orca. The orca in question was lying sideways, collateral to the sea, and initially, volunteers were worried they weren't going to be able to save him. However, the team rallied a group of caring locals to help turn the whale upright and facing the sea, and they then put him on a dolphin stretcher and catapulted him into the water to swim free.
"After about an hour and with help from local residents to stabilize the animal, it suddenly took matters into its own fins and made a move to swim off," BDMLR wrote, as per EcoWatch. "Unable to hold the animal any longer, the stretcher was lowered and the orca swam forward straight out towards the open sea. It rolled a couple of times and then submerged and continued straight out away from the beach without looking back."
Why do whales get beached and stranded ashore?
Whales most often get stranded ashore if they're sick, injured, or old, according to Wildlife Florida. Weather conditions can also play a major role in their poor navigational judgements, and occasionally, whales simply make a wrong turn while hunting or swimming. Certain species are scientifically more prone to beaching than others, but needless to say, it's tragic when it happens, and it can often lead to fatal dehydration.
Climate researchers have also looked at climate change as a contributor to whales beaching. Many have suggested that changes in water temperature may cause an influx of beachings. Others have also proposed that boats can affect whales' echolocation abilities, which throws off their inner GPS and can therefore lead to them making a wrong turn. So, human activity may unfortunately play a role in beachings, too.
So, what can you do when you see a beached whale?
Although it may be tempting to try and help a stranded whale on your own, doing so isn't recommended. Save The Whales has an extensive list of organizations and groups to call, depending on where you're located. After learning of the circumstances, as well as the condition of the animal, the group will most likely arrive at the scene. They recommend staying and observing them, while keeping other people and dogs away.
They do not recommend returning the animal to the ocean, in case they are sick or hurt. They will do everything that's required to save the animal, and if they need help moving or situating the whale, they may ask for it. They also recommend staying away from the tail, as it can be extremely powerful.
TLDR: Make sure you contact the right people, and then stay and keep watch over the beloved creature until help arrives.