Mystery over tragic pilot whale which beached at Leith

The dead pilot whale washed up at Leith
The dead pilot whale washed up at Leith
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Experts are working to determine whether a pilot whale which beached and died at Leith yesterday was part of the pod rescued in Fife over the weekend.

The whale died after becoming stranded just outside the Port of Leith and was discovered by the Harbour Master at 7.45am on Monday.

Postmortem examinations are still being carried out to determine what caused 26 whales to be stranded at Pittenweem in Fife on Sunday morning, resulting in the deaths of 16 of them at the time.

A further 24 whales from the same pod were also spotted in shallow water three miles along the coast at Cellardyke on Sunday. It could be several days before the results of the postmortems are known.

British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) operations manager Stephen Marsh told the Evening News: “It has not yet been confirmed if the one that died after stranding in Leith is one of the group that was rescued in Fife over the weekend. We need to compare pictures of the dead animal’s dorsal fin to positively identify it as part of the rescue pod, or as part of the pod that didn’t strand.

“Two whales that we believed to be from the pod of ten did go into that area, but we don’t know if one of them is the one which stranded.”

Ali Jack, the Scottish co-ordinator of BDMLR, said: “This dead whale seems to have separated from the pod with another – who may have been keeping it company while it died.”

Pilot whales will not leave a wounded or sick member of their school, which can lead to them following one such whale on to the shore and becoming stranded.

Councillor Chas Booth, who represents the Green Party in Leith, said: “It’s very sad news and something that all those who watched the drama unfolding in Fife over the weekend with real concern will no doubt be very upset to hear.”

With members of the public being asked to keep their eyes open for further sightings of the whales, reports were received last night of a large pod near the Forth Road Bridge.

Mr Marsh said: “It looks as if they may have met up with the other whales as the sightings are of a much larger pod. However, they are still a bit further west than we would like. We have also been told that someone in a speed boat seems to be trying to get near to them. We aren’t sure if they are attempting to herd the whales or just want to take pictures but there is a risk their interference could result in the pod restranding themselves.

“We would urge all members of the public not to attempt to herd whales. If you are concerned about them, don’t try to get involved yourself, call us.”

If you spot a stranded animal call the BDMLR hotline on 01825-765 546.