Sperm whales follow leader to death on beach

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The Independent Online
Coastguards were last night mounting a security vigil on six sperm whales which died after becoming stranded on a North Sea beach.

Hoards of onlookers flocked to Cruden Bay beach, north of Aberdeen, after the 25ft-long mammals were discovered yesterday, but they were kept away from the site by a police cordon.

Desperate attempts were made by animal protection officers to save one of the whales found barely alive, but it died before a vet reached the scene. The vet eventually pronounced dead all the whales - some weighing more than 10 tons.

Environmental health officers, police and coastguards spent the day examining ways of disposing of the huge mammals. It also emerged that five of the creatures may have perished while trying to escort a sick whale as it headed towards shallow water.

Disposing of the whales has been described as "extremely complicated" by coastguards because they are beached on soft sand which would hamper attempts to use heavy lifting equipment. If the animals are buried on the beach a protective fence would have to be erected around the grave to protect public health.

SSPCA inspector Sylvester Hay said: "It appears the dominant whale in the school had been ill and came in so close to shore that it became stuck on a sandbank and could not return to the deeper water.

"The other whales appear to have followed it in and also became stuck. It is a tragic case."