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Sea World Experts Fight To Save Pilot Whales

August 9, 1986

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ Five pilot whales being treated here Saturday are believed to have stranded themselves twice in three weeks, leading an expert to think more from their pod of 39 may come ashore.

Meanwhile, a sixth pilot whale, found stranded in Marathon in the Florida Keys on Saturday, was being transported to a Sea World facility in Long Key for treatment. It was believed to be from the same pod as the others, said Edward Asper, vice president and general curator of Sea World of Florida.

At least 17 whales were involved in a mass stranding Friday near Sugarloaf Shores in the lower Florida Keys, Esper said.

Sea World scientists confirmed 11 dead Friday, he said. But Florida Marine Patrol officials earlier in the day said as many as 17 had died.

″We’ve heard higher numbers, but we didn’t see them,″ Asper said.

Two of seven whales transported to Sea World in Orlando Friday night died. One male, three females and one whale whose sex still hasn’t been determined remained alive Saturday.

The five whales are being given fluids and veterinarians are trying to keep them swimming. One, a 275-pound baby, is not in good condition, Asper said.

″Basically we find that these animals suffer, in human terms, of shock,″ he said.

Asper said the whales were from the same pod that stranded in late July off Marco Island, 150 miles up Florida’s Gulf Coast. He said they were identified by notches cut in their fins.

Wildlife experts pushed 39 of the whales from the July stranding back into the water after seven died on the beach.

″We’ve been expecting these animals to re-beach themselves since they were pushed back last month,″ Asper said, adding that if any whales from the pod are still alive they will likely beach themselves.

Asper said it’s not yet known why whales strand themselves.

″These animals have probably been wandering around in shallower waters of the Florida coast and have not gone out to deeper waters,″ where their main source of food, squid, is, he said.

Pilot whales, whose average length is 15 feet, are docile animals. Males generally live to age 30 or 35. Females have an average life span of 20 years.

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