People try to save short-finned pilot whales beached in Bangkalan, Madura island on February 19, 2021, as some 49 pilot whales…
People try to save short-finned pilot whales beached in Bangkalan, Madura island, Feb. 19, 2021.

Regional officials on the northeastern Indonesian island of Madura said Friday at least 45 pilot whales that stranded themselves on a beach there have died, while rescuers managed to push three back out to sea. 

East Java Provincial Governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa, who was at the scene, told reporters that volunteers began arriving Thursday when news of the stranding first broke. He said they initially were able to push some of the whales back out to sea, but they returned.

The governor said there will be an investigation into the stranding and samples from dead whales will be sent to a regional university for study. He said the rest of the whales will be buried Saturday once the tide recedes and excavators can be used. 

People try to save a short-finned pilot whale beached in Bangkalan, Madura island, Feb. 19, 2021.

There were a series of high-profile pilot whale strandings last year in the south Pacific, including incidents in New Zealand and on the Australian island of Tasmania, where hundreds of whales died. 

It is not fully understood why the whales beach themselves, but they are known to be highly social and travel in large groups known as pods. They will often follow a leader and sometimes come to the aid of an injured or distressed member of their pod. 

Whale Stranding Indonesia, a nongovernmental organization, says in 2020 more than 70 marine mammals were found stranded, including dugongs, which are medium-sized marine mammals that are related to manatees. 
 

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