Indonesians rush to save beached sperm whales

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian officials and fishermen on Monday were trying to save a pod of 12 huge sperm whales that washed up on a beach at the northern tip of Sumatra island, a conservationist said.

At least two of the whales were hurt but volunteers had decided to wait for high tide to haul the animals back out to sea using ropes, said Sapto Aji Prabowo, of the Natural Resource Conservation Agency in Aceh province, where the whales are beached.

"It is best to wait until high tide, but we are concerned they might die," Prabowo told Reuters.

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Indonesians rush to save beached whales
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Indonesians rush to save beached whales
ACEH, INDONESIA - NOVEMBER 13: Stranded whales are seen as people are gathered at Ujong Kareung Beach in Aceh, Indonesia on November 13, 2017. Aceh rescue crews and members of environmental NGO's are trying to save the nine stranded whales by pushing them back into ocean. (Photo by Junaidi Hanafiah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ACEH, INDONESIA - NOVEMBER 13: Nine whales (Physeter macrocephalus) were stranded at Ujong Kareung Beach, Aceh Province, Indonesia on November 13, 2017. Aceh government and environmental NGO are trying to save the whale by pulling back into the sea. (Photo credit should read JUNAIDI HANAFIAH / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
ACEH, INDONESIA - NOVEMBER 13: Nine whales (Physeter macrocephalus) were stranded at Ujong Kareung Beach, Aceh Province, Indonesia on November 13, 2017. Aceh government and environmental NGO are trying to save the whale by pulling back into the sea. (Photo credit should read JUNAIDI HANAFIAH / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
ACEH, INDONESIA - NOVEMBER 13: Nine whales (Physeter macrocephalus) were stranded at Ujong Kareung Beach, Aceh Province, Indonesia on November 13, 2017. Aceh government and environmental NGO are trying to save the whale by pulling back into the sea. (Photo credit should read JUNAIDI HANAFIAH / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
ACEH, INDONESIA - NOVEMBER 13: Stranded whales are seen as people are gathered at Ujong Kareung Beach in Aceh, Indonesia on November 13, 2017. Aceh rescue crews and members of environmental NGO's are trying to save the nine stranded whales by pushing them back into ocean. (Photo credit should read Hendri Ab ik / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
ACEH, INDONESIA - NOVEMBER 13: Stranded whales are seen as people are gathered at Ujong Kareung Beach in Aceh, Indonesia on November 13, 2017. Aceh rescue crews and members of environmental NGO's are trying to save the nine stranded whales by pushing them back into ocean. (Photo credit should read Hendri Ab ik / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
ACEH, INDONESIA - NOVEMBER 13: Stranded whales are seen as people are gathered at Ujong Kareung Beach in Aceh, Indonesia on November 13, 2017. Aceh rescue crews and members of environmental NGO's are trying to save the nine stranded whales by pushing them back into ocean. (Photo credit should read Hendri Ab ik / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
ACEH, INDONESIA - NOVEMBER 13: Stranded whales are seen as people are gathered at Ujong Kareung Beach in Aceh, Indonesia on November 13, 2017. Aceh rescue crews and members of environmental NGO's are trying to save the nine stranded whales by pushing them back into ocean. (Photo credit should read Hendri Ab ik / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
ACEH, INDONESIA - NOVEMBER 13: Stranded whales are seen as people are gathered at Ujong Kareung Beach in Aceh, Indonesia on November 13, 2017. Aceh rescue crews and members of environmental NGO's are trying to save the nine stranded whales by pushing them back into ocean. (Photo credit should read Hendri Ab ik / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
This general picture taken by a drone camera shows Indonesian officers from Nature Conservation Agency (BKSDA) and environmental activists trying to refloat nine stranded sperm whales in Aceh Besar on November 13, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN (Photo credit should read CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN/AFP/Getty Images)
ACEH, INDONESIA - NOVEMBER 13: Stranded whales are seen as people are gathered at Ujong Kareung Beach in Aceh, Indonesia on November 13, 2017. Aceh rescue crews and members of environmental NGO's are trying to save the nine stranded whales by pushing them back into ocean. (Photo by Junaidi Hanafiah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ACEH, INDONESIA - NOVEMBER 13: Residents witnessed a group of Sperm whales stranded in Aceh Besar Beach on November 13, 2017 in Aceh, Indonesia. A total of 10 stranded Sperm whales are injured. PHOTOGRAPH BY Oviyandi / Barcroft Images (Photo credit should read Oviyandi / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
ACEH, INDONESIA - NOVEMBER 13: Residents witnessed a group of Sperm whales stranded in Aceh Besar Beach on November 13, 2017 in Aceh, Indonesia. A total of 10 stranded Sperm whales are injured. PHOTOGRAPH BY Oviyandi / Barcroft Images (Photo credit should read Oviyandi / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
This general picture taken by a drone camera shows Indonesian officers from Nature Conservation Agency (BKSDA) and environmental activists trying to refloat nine stranded sperm whales in Aceh Besar on November 13, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN (Photo credit should read CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN/AFP/Getty Images)
ACEH, INDONESIA - NOVEMBER 13: Stranded whales are seen as people are gathered at Ujong Kareung Beach in Aceh, Indonesia on November 13, 2017. Aceh rescue crews and members of environmental NGO's are trying to save the nine stranded whales by pushing them back into ocean. (Photo by Junaidi Hanafiah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ACEH, INDONESIA - NOVEMBER 13: Stranded whales are seen as people are gathered at Ujong Kareung Beach in Aceh, Indonesia on November 13, 2017. Aceh rescue crews and members of environmental NGO's are trying to save the nine stranded whales by pushing them back into ocean. (Photo credit should read Hendri Ab ik / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
ACEH, INDONESIA - NOVEMBER 13: Stranded whales are seen as people are gathered at Ujong Kareung Beach in Aceh, Indonesia on November 13, 2017. Aceh rescue crews and members of environmental NGO's are trying to save the nine stranded whales by pushing them back into ocean. (Photo credit should read Hendri Ab ik / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
Officers from the Nature Conservation Agency (BKSDA) and environmental activists help to refloat nine beached sperm whales in Aceh Besar on November 13, 2017. Environmentalists on November 13 tried to refloat nine sperm whales which had beached themselves on Krueng Raya beach in Aceh Besar. / AFP PHOTO / Chaideer MAHYUDDIN (Photo credit should read CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN/AFP/Getty Images)
ACEH, INDONESIA - NOVEMBER 13: Two of the nine stranded whales are seen as rescue crew members prepare on a boat at Ujong Kareung Beach in Aceh, Indonesia on November 13, 2017. Aceh rescue crews and members of environmental NGO's are trying to save the nine stranded whales by pushing them back into ocean. (Photo by Junaidi Hanafiah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Men look at nine beached sperm whales in Aceh Besar on November 13, 2017. Environmentalists on November 13 tried to refloat nine sperm whales which had beached themselves on Krueng Raya beach in Aceh Besar. / AFP PHOTO / Chaideer MAHYUDDIN (Photo credit should read CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN/AFP/Getty Images)
ACEH, INDONESIA - NOVEMBER 13: Residents witnessed a group of Sperm whales stranded in Aceh Besar Beach on November 13, 2017 in Aceh, Indonesia. A total of 10 stranded Sperm whales are injured. PHOTOGRAPH BY Oviyandi / Barcroft Images (Photo credit should read Oviyandi / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
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Photos circulated on social media showed dozens of volunteers wading on to the reef and tying ropes around the whales, each of which was several meters long and flopping its huge fins in the shallow water.

An adult sperm whale, among the biggest mammals on earth, can grow up to 12 meters and can weigh up to 57 tonnes.

Though unusual, whale beachings have been seen in other parts of Indonesia, a vast archipelago of over 17,000 islands.

In 2016, a group of 29 pilot whales were briefly trapped in a mangrove swamp off the eastern coast of Java, but managed to free themselves or were helped back out to sea by fishermen.

(Reporting by Jessica Damiana and Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor)

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