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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 June, 2005, 10:13 GMT 11:13 UK
Beached whales saved in Australia
Volunteers desperately try to save over 100 false killer whales beached at Dolphin Bay near Busselton, 230 km south of Perth, 02 June 2005.

Volunteers have helped to save scores of false killer whales that were stranded in western Australia after they beached near Busselton.

Hundreds of local people responded to a government call and pushed the whales back into the water. Just one is reported to have died.

False killer whales share some characteristics with killer whales, though they are not as aggressive.

Like killer whales, they are not actually whales, but dolphins.

I have never seen anything like this in my life
Volunteer Alyssa Jeffery
Local resident Alyssa Jeffery said volunteers had been told to keep the whales upright and keep them clean of sand.

"Before today I had only seen one whale. I just can't believe it; I have never seen anything like this in my life," she said.

Another volunteer, Deidre Beckwith, said it was an "extraordinary" scene.

The whales "are very heavy, and they keep moving against us. They are confused... but it is nice to be able to help them. We just hope they survive".

Storm fears

There are fears that a storm forecast for later on Thursday may drive the whales back to shore.

"The people and the whales will be at risk if we need to do another rescue," said Tammy Reid, a conservation officer.

False killer whales grow to between 4.3 and 6 metres (14ft - 19ft 9in) in length, usually feed on squid and large fish, and are extremely sociable.

They also have a tendency to beach, and there have been several incidents on Australia's west coast.

"It's not uncommon for this species to strand," local official Neil Taylor said.

Scientists are not sure what causes whales to beach.

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25 Nov 03 |  Asia-Pacific
Whale stranding cases 'increase'
09 Mar 05 |  Science/Nature
Whales 'suffer from the bends'
23 Dec 04 |  Science/Nature
Call for study on impact of sonar
23 Oct 04 |  Cornwall
Dolphin deaths still on increase
21 Feb 05 |  Guernsey

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