Seven stranded whales in Florida being rehabilitated
By Laura Myers
20th April 2003
BIG PINE KEY (Reuters) - Rescue volunteers were rehabilitating seven of 27 pilot whales that beached themselves in shallow waters off the Florida Keys, but 11 have died, conservation officials said on Saturday.
Of the 27 sleek black mammals, four died from an undetermined illness on Saturday. Seven, including at least two who were euthanized, died on Friday, when the whales were first discovered by a fisherman several miles offshore at the Content Keys, said Robert Lingenfelser, president of the 300-member Marine Mammal Conservancy in Key Largo, Florida.
Six were able to swim freely in deep water about 6 miles off of Big Pine Key, located 30 miles north of Key West at Florida's southern peninsula.
Three others were "unaccounted for" although several volunteer pilots searched over water and will continue searching on Sunday, Lingenfelser said.
An estimated 120 to 200 rescue workers on Saturday hydrated and coddled the remaining creatures at a county-owned facility known as Mariners Resort.
The whales were being treated in a 4-foot-deep sea pen and fed purified water and an anti-dehydration mixture for children through feeding tubes. Two suffered severe sunburn and were protected with wet, cool sheets.
The seven whales undergoing rehabilitation include a 12-foot male estimated to weigh 1,200 to 1,400 pounds, a 1-year-old female calf and five other females, including one who appeared to have adopted the baby calf.
Researchers performed field necropsies near the Content Keys, but it was not yet clear what caused the whale deaths.
Pilot whales, social and noisy, generally feed and travel in groups of five to 50 and are not considered endangered.
In 1995, rescue workers successfully rehabilitated two of four pilot whales that were stranded in the Florida Keys, Lingenfelser said.
Earlier this year, four pygmy sperm whales beached themselves in the upper Florida Keys. They all died.