Beached Cuvier’s beaked whales, also known as goose-beaked whales, or ziphius (Ziphius cavirostris) were found in various Paphos locations over the past two days but all, even those helped back into the water have died, it emerged on Friday.

The department of fisheries announced four sightings on Thursday, one at Gialia, one at Argaka, and two near Polis.

Locals who first found the whales notified the authorities, and then attempted to rescue the animals, managing to push three, which were found alive, back into sea and the animals appeared to take off, mayor of Argaka, Spyros Pelopida, told the Cyprus Mail.

Spokesman for the marine research department Lavrentis Vassiliades, told Cyprus Mail that by Friday morning two more sightings had occurred, between Polis and Pachyammos, bringing the total number up to six. Sadly, all the whales, even those which had been pushed back into the water, were later found beached and dead.

This is the first recorded instance of such a large number of whales beaching in Cyprus, Vassiliades said, although there were a couple of isolated incidents in the past, with one recorded last year in Mandria. Meanwhile, there have also been reports of three whale sightings in the north.

The fisheries research team collected autopsy samples from the carcasses on Friday, some of which are to be sent abroad, to determine the exact causes of the whale’s deaths, Vassiliades said, but could not say when results would be returned.

The beaching may have happened as a result of seismic vibrations from the recent earthquake in Turkey, shock waves from military exercises, or noise from exploratory seabed drilling, all of which can cause stress and disorientation to cetaceans which rely largely on their sense of hearing and communicate with each through high-frequency echolocation.

The mayor of Argaka, where two of the whales were found, said the attempted rescue by locals shows that the area’s residents are sensitive to sea animals and want to protect their region’s biodiversity.

A video posted to a group dedicated to recording and preserving the island’s biodiversity, showed a young men from the area pushing one whale back into the sea, in cold and rough-water conditions.

The group stayed at the beach for hours at night, to watch for any more whales, the mayor said.

“Anything immediate, relating to the region’s animals or nature, has to be done by the locals, the region’s youth volunteers and local leaders,” the mayor said pointedly, adding that official state authorities are not as reliable or as intimately involved.

Cuvier’s whales are smaller than most baleen whales but large for beaked whales, usually inhabiting waters deeper than 300 m. They have the deepest and longest recorded dives among whales. Despite their deep-water habitat, they are among the most frequently spotted beached whales, possibly due to being even more sensitive to sonar than other types of whale species.