Beachgoers on St. Simons Island in Georgia sprung into action when a pod of more than 20 pilot whales began beaching themselves on Tuesday afternoon.
Unfortunately, three of the whales, which can weigh 800 to 1,000 pounds, died, but Glynn County Emergency Management reports that the rest made it safely back to sea by Tuesday evening. Conservationists from the National Marine Mammal Foundation followed the whales in a boat to make sure they remained offshore following the impromptu rescue operation.
The incredible effort to save the whales, which involved kids and families physically pushing and shoving the animals back to sea, was captured live on social media.
In addition to vacationers, personnel from the DNR Wildlife Resources Division, DNR Coastal Resources Division, Georgia Sea Turtle Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, Glynn County Emergency Management participated in efforts to push several beached whales back out to sea, with some animals continuing to return to the beach.
“While stranding is a known natural occurrence, the only thing we can do is to continue pushing them out to sea,” Clay George, a senior wildlife biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, said in a news release.
The DNR said it plans to conduct autopsies on the whales who died.
A witness who was there on St.Simons Island when 20+ whales beached themselves just shared this video with me. The whales are now back in the water but a NOAA expert just told me it’s possible there could still be a mass stranding. @FCN2go pic.twitter.com/t3eF0kQCj3— Heather Crawford (@HeatherFCN) July 17, 2019
"This has been an unusual occurrence, but events like these can really show the level of care and support from our community," the agency wrote on Facebook. "Thank you to everyone that helped those that couldn’t help themselves today."
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Now if that doesn’t inspire you, we don’t know what will!