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Tragedy Strikes Pilot Whale Pod

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Mother and Calf

Tragedy has struck one of Britain's largest and most elusive marine mammals as a pod of 33 pilot whales was found beached off the coast of County Donegal in North East Ireland, at the weekend. The pod of both adult females and their young was found to be stranded and lifeless on Rutland Island near Burtonport on Saturday, although they were said to have been seen by locals in the area, a few days before.

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) claims that it knew nothing of the whale's presence in the area until after the disaster had occurred, which they have said to be one of the largest mass whale deaths in Irish history. This pod of Pilot whales is thought to be the same one that was seen off South Uist in the Outer Hebrides just last week, when reports came in of a closely bonded pod of 30-40 individuals.

Pod of Whales
Although, due to bad weather, British experts have yet to reach the horrific scene to begin conducting the post mortem examinations on the 33 beached pilot whales, it is high-tech sonar equipment that is actually thought to be the main culprit. Naval exercises use low-frequency sonar which is known to affect whales very badly and although a naval ship was said to be in the area at the time, the Royal Navy have not confirmed whether or not these exercises were being conducted.

Pilot whales, along with a number of other marine mammals, communicate using frequencies that are very similar to our navy's sonar devices. It is thought that the sonar would have disrupted the natural navigational systems of this pod of deep diving whales, sending them off course and towards the coast of County Donegal, where locals first saw them feeding in the area on Tuesday.

Pod Next To Ship
In the past, the Royal Navy has denied that the sonar frequencies produced by their warships could cause whales to beach, and that the only ship near South Uist at the time, was at least 50 miles away and could not have caused the whales any harm from that distance. However, between 2007 and 2009, the US Navy was ordered not to use mid-frequency sonar during their training exercises, after growing concerns about the affect it had on marine mammals in the area.

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