|A killer whale and a calf - photo by Christopher Michel, |
CC BY-2.0 License
Beaching of single animals is generally due to the fact that the animal is sick and can longer swim or because a baby has lost its mother and is too weak to fight ocean currents. Mass beachings or strandings are harder to explain.
In many cases today, investigators never discover why a group of cetaceans beach. Sometimes there are clues, however. Occasionally the animals' bodies show injuries that suggest that they have recently been attacked by sharks or other cetaceans. They may be trying to escape the danger. In other cases, tests show that the whales are infected by parasites or viruses, which may affect their navigation system and cause them to become disoriented, Many cetaceans are very social animals and have close bonds with other members of their group. If one or more animals in a group beach, the others may follow because they don't want to be separated from their companions or their leader.
|Beached false killer whales - photo by Bahnfrend,|
CC BY-SA 3.0 License
If one cetacean beaches and if that animal is small or is a youngster of a big species, it may be possible to save the animal if a rescue facility is nearby. When a big animal or many animals are stranded, it's harder to help them. It's sometimes possible to move stranded animals back into the water if they're not too big, but they may beach themselves again. One argument against moving the animals into the water is that if they've beached themselves because they're sick, when they're back in the ocean they may infect other animals. We really need to discover the causes of beaching for the sake of the world's cetaceans.