After several hours of unrelenting effort, rescuers have succeeded in returning six out of seven killer whales found stranded on the shores of Mar Chiquita to the sea.
Sadly, however, one orca died, despite the best efforts of rescuers.
Firefighters, Naval officers, park rangers, coastguards, municipal personnel and local volunteers quickly organised a well-populated rescue operation in a bid to save the ceteceans. Locals turned up with buckets to water to pour over the killer whales, with others attempting to help push the mammals back into the sea. Experts from the Mundo Marino aquarium in Mar del Plata and Fauna Argentina also assisted the operation.
Mar Chiquita Tourism and Environment Secretary Flavia paid tribute to those who committed to the rescue effort.
"Thanks to the collaboration of everyone and the rapid action, we managed," said Laguné.
According to neighbours in the area, which is around 30 kilometres from Mar del Plata, the stranding occured at around 8am in the morning in Mar Chiquita, Buenos Aires Province, between the coasts of Camet Norte and La Caleta.
The body of the deceased cetecean was removed at 2pm local time.
Speaking prior to their safe return to the ocean, Laguné said that some of the whales were stranded on the sand of the beach, with others caught up in shallow water.
"The first step was to fence off the whole place, because there are neighbours who have approached with dogs and that can cause stress to the animals that are stranded," said Laguné.
Experts will be eager to try and work out how the orcas became stranded, with the initial working theory that they may have become disorientated or come closer to shore in search of food. Researchers are understood to have ruled out low tide as a reason for the animals coming ashore.
Laguné said that "what the marine specialists have expressed is that possibly the cetaceans became disoriented and headed towards the coast being stranded and not due to some kind of disease."
"It may be that it is linked to the news of sea lions at Mar del Plata that we saw in recent days," speculated Laguné, referencing reports that the animals had moved on from the popular tourist seaside city. "We know that there are many who have left and the orcas are chasing their food, this may have caused them to get very close to the coast."
Killer whales, despite their name, are not actually whales. Classified as Delphinidae, they are the largest species of the dolphin family. Adult males can exceed nine meteres in length. Female killer whales, while smaller, can live up as long as 90 years.
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