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24 beached pilot whales die in Gulf of California despite rescue effort

24 beached pilot whales die in Gulf of California despite rescue effort
A rescue volunteer attempts to move beached pilot whales to deeper waters on Saturday in the Gulf of California, south of San Felipe. Of the 27 whales, only three survived. (Secretaria de Marina de Mexico)

A group of 24 pilot whales died after becoming beached in the Gulf of California south of the fishing port of San Felipe, Mexico, despite overnight efforts to move them to deeper waters, Mexican authorities said on Sunday. Three survived — two adults and a calf, according to Mexico's environmental protection agency, PROFEPA.

The whales showed no visible injuries, nor signs that they had been entangled in fishing nets. "The supposition is that they became disoriented," according to the agency's statement.

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The 15-hour rescue operation took place from 3 p.m. Saturday to 6 a.m. Sunday next to the Punta Bufeo hotel and sport fishing camp about 80 miles from San Felipe.

Rosario Carrillo, whose husband operates the camp, said she was notified by local fishermen of the whales. "I have seen two or three beached, but never this many," Carrillo said.

The rescue operation involved fishermen, residents, as well as personnel from PROFEPA, and members of the Mexican army and navy. Despite efforts to move the whales to deeper waters, they "would once again return to shallow areas toward the beach, which caused them to once again become stuck," according to PROFEPA.

The PROFEPA statement said that pilot whales have "strong social cohesion," and that they "don't abandon other whales that are in danger, even if it means death."

Dibble writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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