Fight is on to save stricken whales

A MAJOR operation was launched yesterday to save 24 whales in danger of becoming stranded off the coast of South Uist.

The large pod of pilot whales was spotted about 150 metres from the shore in Loch Carnan on Wednesday evening and reported to coastguards by concerned members of the public.

Animal welfare experts were contacted and a large-scale operation was mounted at first light yesterday involving the Scottish SPCA and British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR), Stornoway Coastguard and local volunteers.

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Two teams, including ten medics from BDMLR and three inspectors from the Scottish SPCA travelled from the mainland to the site, taking three vehicles, two rescue trailers and four sets of rescue pontoons.

About noon yesterday, as the whales were in danger of heading towards the head of Loch Carnan, local fish farmers formed their boats into a 'U' shape behind them, and slowly guided the creatures back out past the pier.

Andy Brown, Scottish SPCA senior inspector, said: "Reported sightings suggested that the pod was circling and displaying laboured breathing yesterday, all signs that they may be in distress and in need of our help.

"However, we have quickly assembled an excellent team of people who will be working tirelessly together to get the best result we can for these magnificent creatures."