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A desperate rescue attempt managed to save half of a pod of sperm whales which beached off the coast of Aceh, Indonesia.

Three whales died on the beach, and in a heartbreaking development for the rescuers, one of the animals that had been saved came back and was stranded again, this time fatally.

According to Whale Stranding Indonesia, a monitoring group, at least 30 animals have beached since the beginning of the year, including whales, dolphins and dugongs, also known as sea cows.

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It is not exactly clear why whales and other marine mammals get stranded, but experts say it can be a combination of factors, from old age, illness or injury, to accidental navigation errors.

Earlier this year, New Zealand saw one of its worst stranding events in history, when more than 400 pilot whales beached on Farewell Spit on the tip of South Island.