Whales on French beach may have washed up voluntarily after death in the family: expert

A whale hitting with its fluke while trying to get back into deeper waters during a rescue operation for a group of stranded whales at a beach in Calais, France on Monday.
A whale hitting with its fluke while trying to get back into deeper waters during a rescue operation for a group of stranded whales at a beach in Calais, France on Monday. PHOTO: EPA

CALAIS, France (AFP) - A school of 10 whales that washed up Monday in northern France may have done so voluntarily after the death of the dominant male, an expert said.

Seven of the whales found on the beach in Calais have not survived.

"The group was in the middle of a deep-sea migration towards the Faroe Islands to reproduce and feed," said Jacky Karpouzopoulos, of the Centre for Marine Mammal Research at La Rochelle.

"It's possible that this was a voluntary family beaching, whereby the dominant male died at sea and the rest followed his body," she said.

Six of the black pilot whales were already dead when they were found. Among them was a 4.5-metre male and a large female.

An autopsy will be carried out to determine the cause of death.

A seventh, female whale died during attempts to return her to the water by local firefighters and an animal rescue team.

The remaining three whales - a female and two calves - were successfully returned to sea when the tide came in.