Falcarragh whales left to die peacefully on Donegal beach

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Media captionEfforts to save a pod of 13 whales stranded on a beach in the Republic of Ireland have ended in failure and they have been left to die peacefully.

Efforts to save a pod of 12 whales stranded on a beach in the Republic of Ireland have ended in failure and they have been left to die peacefully.

So far, eight of the whales have died after they became stranded at Falcarragh beach in County Donegal.

Despite a community effort to relaunch them, they kept returning to the shoreline.

"People in the know said it was futile to relaunch them into the water," said local councillor Seamus O'Domhnaill.

"We were prolonging their deaths rather then extending their lives and we were prolonging their agony.

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Image caption Kevin Coyle and Pat O Grady try to help the whales back into the water

"The decision was taken to leave them, as they were not going to go out into deep waters.

"The remaining eight are lying on the beach, many of them are dead. They will pass quietly and peacefully on the beach and they will be buried."

Local residents and holidaymakers joined forces on the beach on Monday in efforts to get the whales back into the water.

Some poured water over the animals to keep them alive, others used a digger to bring them to the sea and others worked in the sea to get them away from the shoreline.

But they kept returning to where the five other whales in their pod had died.

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Image caption The pod of whales beached in County Donegal

"There was an absolute 100% community response to this, people wanted to help out any way they could," said Mr O'Domhnaill.

"Unfortunately, the whales were not long back in the water until they started to come into shore again. There was very little we could do, the tide was coming in.

"They were intent on coming back to the shoreline, whether that was to be with the sick and dead whales, I don't know."

A pod of 12 whales was discovered by Jim Mercer at about 07:00 BST on Monday. He was out for a morning run along Falcarragh Strand when he came across a baby pilot whale which was alive.

"I was unable to move it into the water on my own so I ran further up the beach to get help and came across another 11 whales," he said.

"It was very sad to pull the baby into the water and then to see it close its eyes, the poor thing had died," Mr Mercer said.

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Image caption One of the whales that died on the beach

Mr Mercer said on Tuesday that four whales were still alive.

"It's very difficult to see them suffering, the ones still alive have what look like tears running down from their eyes."

Mick O'Connell from the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group said: "The whales' echo-location may not have been working too well because they were in shallow water.

"It is also possible that one of the whales was sick and accidentally led the entire pod astray."

It is the 13th stranding reported from Donegal in 2014 and the second live stranding.

A harbour porpoise was refloated at Lough Foyle on 25 February. A dead northern bottlenose whale was found at Cruit Island, County Donegal on 23 March.

In 2010, 33 whales died after they were beached on Rutland Island in County Donegal.

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