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Last Updated: Friday May 20 2011 17:53 GMT

Stranded whales in danger in South Uist loch

Race to stop whales getting stranded

Experts are trying to prevent about 100 whales from getting stuck on a loch shore in the Western Isles of Scotland.

The pilot whales were spotted in South Uist on Thursday afternoon and about 20 seemed to have cuts on their heads.

It's thought they've hurt themselves by trying to get onto the rocky shore of the sea loch.

Marine specialists are worried the whales could die if they all get stuck on the beach. It could be the biggest ever stranding in Scotland.

Special blow-up floats - called pontoons - are being sent from all over the UK to try to move the whales.

Whales have very strong bonds with each other and it's thought that if a poorly whale tries to go ashore, then they could all follow and get stuck.

Pilot whales facts
Pilot whales (Sergio Hanquet)

They eat squid and fish
Their name comes from the fact they are "piloted" by a group leader
Live in groups of about 10 to 30, but some can be up to 100
Adults can be up to 6m long and weigh three tonnes
Males can live to 45 and females up to 60

SPCA senior inspector Calum Watt said trying to save the whales was a "huge task".

He said: "The largest number of whales we've tried to refloat before was seven, which was in 1993. Unfortunately all seven returned to the shore and died."

At the end of October last year, a group - called a pod - were in danger of becoming stranded in the same sea loch.

After being watched closely they moved safely back to sea, but a few days later a group of 33 whales - believed to be the same group - were discovered dead on a beach in Northern Ireland.