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The March 6 Kyodo article “22 melon-headed whales rescued” reports that 22 of 50 melon-headed whales were saved after they apparently had beached themselves in Kashima, Ibaraki Prefecture. Roughly two hundred people, including local residents and authorities, tried to keep them hydrated while others tried to refloat them. After eight hard hours of work, the surviving whales were returned to sea, and the dead ones were buried on a nearby shore.

I suggest that scientists and biologists try to use occurrences such as this to study and understand why melon-headed whales, and all whales in general, wash ashore.

I think the beaching might be attributable to the use of navy sonar equipment, which could have affected the whales’ health and behavior. The operation of this equipment is suspected of giving whales a version of the bends — a dangerous development of gas bubbles in some tissues and in the blood. The bends occur when the whales rise too quickly from deep water and experience a sudden change in the pressure of their surrounding environment.

edna ferreira

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