November 13, 2017 / 11:25 AM / a year ago

Indonesians rush to save beached sperm whales

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian officials and fishermen on Monday were trying to save a pod of 12 huge sperm whales that washed up on a beach at the northern tip of Sumatra island, a conservationist said.

At least two of the whales were hurt but volunteers had decided to wait for high tide to haul the animals back out to sea using ropes, said Sapto Aji Prabowo, of the Natural Resource Conservation Agency in Aceh province, where the whales are beached.

“It is best to wait until high tide, but we are concerned they might die,” Prabowo told Reuters.

Photos circulated on social media showed dozens of volunteers wading on to the reef and tying ropes around the whales, each of which was several meters long and flopping its huge fins in the shallow water.

An adult sperm whale, among the biggest mammals on earth, can grow up to 12 meters and can weigh up to 57 tonnes.

Though unusual, whale beachings have been seen in other parts of Indonesia, a vast archipelago of over 17,000 islands.

In 2016, a group of 29 pilot whales were briefly trapped in a mangrove swamp off the eastern coast of Java, but managed to free themselves or were helped back out to sea by fishermen.

Reporting by Jessica Damiana and Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor

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