Rescued pilot whales released back home in the Gulf

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Two pilot whales that were found beached Monday were "successfully" released after scientists saw positive signs in the marine animals’ recovery. 

The two were separated from three others in the pod found on Redington Beach. That day, three were taken by boat to deeper waters and fitted with GPS tracking devices. They were tracked heading away from the coast.

The two smaller whales were monitored at Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s new rehab facility, located at Fred Howard Park in Tarpon Springs. Late Wednesday night, scientists made the decision to release them the following morning about 20 miles from the coast of Anclote River Park. They were also fitted with GPS trackers for biologists to monitor them.

"We're a little bit surprised it went this well," explained David Yates, CEO of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

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A crane was used to transfer the pair from vans to a large boat. One whale weighs 1,600 pounds and is 12 feet long while the smaller one is 950 pounds and is 10 feet long.

On Monday morning, dozens of volunteers and teams from NOAA, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Mote Marine and FWC came together for several hours to help the stranded pod. 

Short-finned pilot whales are known to live in tropical waters around the world. They typically spend a lot of time deep underwater, feeding on squid, fish, and octopus.

It remains unclear as to why they became stranded in the first place. Experts said they know pilot whales typically strand together if something happens to one, which prompted the initial decision to split them up.

At the time, scientists said there was a good chance all five would not have done well if they were sent out together.