At least 40 pilot whales have died after stranding on Tragh Mhor beach on Scotland’s Isle of Lewis early Sunday, as a British marine charity said the cause of the mass stranding is still unknown.
According to the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR), only 10 survived.
Police have urged the public to avoid visiting the area to give the stranded whales the “best chance of survival”.
A spokesperson for the BDMLR said that “they were alerted by the police about the massive stranding”.
She said: “Our local marine mammalogist is currently providing first aid to the whales, and medics from surrounding areas are preparing their kit and arranging transport to the island. The reason for the whale’s stranding is currently unknown “
“The reports so far suggest that there are around 55 animals, however the latest updates from the spot suggest that only 10 are alive,” he added.
“The Coastguard and the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme have also been tasked with taking part.”
Explaining the possible reasons for their stranding, he said: “Pilot whales are notorious for their strong social bonds, so often when one whale gets into trouble and becomes trapped, the rest of the whales become trapped too, leading to Even more of them get trapped.”
Pilot whales are smaller in size and are classified as part of the dolphin family.
Police Scotland said: “Officers are currently assisting the companions of a number of stranded pilot whales beached at Tolsta, Stornoway. To give the whales the best chance of survival, please avoid this area.”
Local MP Angus Brendan McNeill also uploaded pictures of the stranded whales to Twitter on Sunday, while writing: “Approximately 55 pilot whales are estimated to be stranded on Tragh Mhor in North Tolsta on the Isle of Lewis this morning.”
The Maritime and Coast Guard Agency said it had also responded to the incident.
The BDMLR, established in 1988, trains volunteer marine mammalogists and has 20 whale rescue pontoons in strategic locations across the UK to help stranded whales and dolphins.
Between 2011 and 2015 it responded to a series of mass strandings of pilot whales across Scotland.
The largest included a group of more than 70 animals.