A pod of beached whales have been euthanised on an Australian beach after attempts to rescue them failed.
The whales which were put to sleep were survivors of a pod which had become stranded on the beach.
Rescuers made the decision after a second day of unsuccessful efforts to rescue the whales which became stranded on Tuesday.
The whales were found on Cheynes Beach, east of a former whaling station in Albany, Western Australia.
Despite the efforts of 250 volunteers and 100 wildlife officers, 52 of the stranded whales died on the beach.
On Wednesday, the remaining 45 were euthanised after the rescuers failed to lead them into deeper water as the survivors kept going back to shallow water.
In a statement, the Western Australia Parks and Wildlife Service said: “Sadly, the decision had to be made to euthanise the remaining whales to avoid prolonging their suffering.
“It was a difficult decision for all involved, however, the welfare of the whales had to take precedence.”
The service also thanked the volunteers who tried to save the whales despite severe winter weather making conditions difficult.
Manager of the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, Peter Hartley said the decision to put the whales to sleep was “incredibly hard”.
Speaking to reporters, he said it was “probably one of the hardest decisions of my 34 years of wildlife management. Really, really difficult”.
Mr Hartley added: “It was a considered and well-thought-out decision. And you know, we thank the support of the … veterinarians that assisted with the assessments and the advice that they gave me to make that decision.”
Following their deaths, experts are trying to work out what caused the pod to get beached.
Some have said the beaching could have been an indication of stress or illness within the pod.
Drone footage of the incident showed the pod clustering and forming into a heart shape before they became stranded on the beach.
Mr Hartley said before the whales were buried at an inland location that samples would be taken for analysis.
Mr Hartley said: “We’re getting requests from around the world from scientists wanting the video footage of them all huddled together on Tuesday.
“We’re going to be learning a lot about the behaviour. We’re also going to be learning a great deal about the genetics, the make-up of that group. Were they related?”