It is not fully understood why whales, which travel together in pods, beach themselves but they are known to follow a leader as well as gather around an injured or distressed whale.

Locals try to lift a whale, one of dozens which got stranded at a beach in Bangkalan, near Surabaya, East Java province, Indonesia, February 19, 2021 in this photo taken by Antara Foto.
Locals try to lift a whale, one of dozens which got stranded at a beach in Bangkalan, near Surabaya, East Java province, Indonesia, February 19, 2021 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. (Reuters)

Forty-six whales stranded on a beach on the Indonesian island of Madura have died, while rescuers managed to push three back out to sea, the provincial governor said.

A rescue effort was launched on Thursday after dozens of pilot whales beached. Volunteers pushed some back out to sea.

"But some came back here, trying to find their mothers, though it turns out the mothers are dead," East Java Governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa said.

Video footage on Friday showed whales dotted across a wide area with local residents wading in ankle-deep water, some trying to splash water on them or push them out to sea.

The governor told Reuters authorities planned to bury the dead whales on Saturday once the tide had receded and said two excavators had been brought in.

Whale Stranding Indonesia, a non-governmental organisation, says in 2020 more than 70 marine mammals were found stranded, including dugongs.

READ MORE: Rescuers find record 470 whales stranded in Australian harbour

Source: Reuters