Forty-six small whales stranded on a beach in Indonesia have died after rescue efforts managed to save three more, local officials said Friday.
As of Thursday, at least 49 short-finned pilot whales arrived on a beach on Madura Island in northern Java, the authorities said in a statement.
Large crowds gathered as a rescue operation. Volunteers used tarpaulins or just their bare hands to try to push the capsule back to sea.
Inquisitive bystanders took photos and touched the whales while others tried to splash water on them.
In the end, only three of the animals survived.
“The live whales had to be released together because they live in a group,” East Java Governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa said in the statement.
Paravansa said officials took samples from the carcasses for further investigation into the cause of death.
He added that the bodies, each three to five meters tall, would be buried on the beach at low tide.
Offshore cross currents in the region pose a threat to whales as they can be caught between land-based reefs.
Pollution, abandoned nets and floating plastic waste are also threats to marine animals.
Last July, 10 pilot whales were found dead near Kupang, a city in East Nusa Tenggara Province.
In 2018, a sperm whale was found dead in Indonesia with more than 100 plastic cups and 25 plastic bags in its stomach, raising concerns about the massive marine litter problem facing the Southeast Asian archipelago.