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Last Updated: Monday March 23 2009 14:38 GMT

Race to save 17 beached whales

Rescuer pouring water over whale (Photo by TONY ASHBY/AFP/Getty Images)

Rescuers are trying to save 17 whales that were washed up on a beach in south-west Australia.

Around 80 whales and bottlenose dolphins became stranded on the beach on Monday, but sadly many of them have already died.

The creatures were being battered by rough waves, and experts are planning to move them to a calmer bay.

They want to release the whales back into the sea, to give them the greatest chance of survival.

Western Australia's Conservation Department said the whales and dolphins were washed up along a stretch of beach about four miles long, early on Monday.

Rescuers helping the whales (photo by TONY ASHBY/AFP/Getty Images)
Rescuers are trying to save the surviving whales

At first it was thought the whales were false killer whales, but when experts looked at them more closely they discovered they were long-finned pilot whales.

It's not unusual for whales to become stranded on beaches in the area as they travel to and from Antarctic waters, but scientists don't know why it happens.

It is unusual for whales and dolphins to become beached together.