Three melon-headed whales were found stranded along the shore in Brgy. Gargato in Hinigaran, Negros Occidental last May 24 and netizens are showing dismay over how residents handled the situation.
In a viral video uploaded by Pinoy Naturalist, a Facebook page on Philippine wildlife and natural history, it can be seen that residents took photos with the whales, all the while grabbing their flippers.
Though melon-headed whales are considered as very social animals, like the pygmy killer whales, pilot whales, false killer whales and Risso’s dolphins, many wildlife and conservation groups were outraged on how the animals were handled.
Dr. AA Yaptinchay, director of Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines, told GMA News Online that the residents’ actions (taking selfies, noisy crowd, etc.) only add stress to the animals’ condition. He added that if they knew that the whales were stranded, it meant they are encountering a problem and should not be hastily approached.
The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Bantay Dagat, and Bantay Katunggan of Kabankalan City responded and checked on the whales. No official reason as to why the whales got stranded was announced, but the whales were released back to the sea.
Two of the whales also got stranded again in the neighboring city of Kabankalan, but they appeared unharmed, so they were released again.
According to Live Science, a website on science and recent discoveries, there are several factors on why whales get stranded.
Researchers and environmentalists argue that sonar pulses may have disoriented the whales, which lead them to seek safety in shallow waters. Some whales may also beach themselves due to genetic mutations, illnesses, infections, injuries, entanglements in fishing gears or even old age, according to a report by researchers from Whitehead lab at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia.