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One day after being rescued from shallow waters, five pilot whales show signs of recovery

Marine biologists and veterinarians from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, alongside Coast Guard officers and volunteer beachgoers tend to one of five pilot whales that beached themselves just off the shore. Monday, July 29, 2019 in Redington Beach. The rescue workers and volunteers swung into action to set up shades over the whales to protect them from sun damage. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times
Marine biologists and veterinarians from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, alongside Coast Guard officers and volunteer beachgoers tend to one of five pilot whales that beached themselves just off the shore. Monday, July 29, 2019 in Redington Beach. The rescue workers and volunteers swung into action to set up shades over the whales to protect them from sun damage. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times
Published Jul. 30, 2019

TARPON SPRINGS — Things are looking up for five pilot whales rescued from shallow waters near Redington Beach on Monday, Clearwater Marine Aquarium officials announced.

The whales became stranded in shallow waters early Monday morning, sparking a day-long rescue effort by every professional marine group in the area and inspired bystanders. By Monday afternoon, volunteers hefted the whales out of shallow water and into transport boats and trucks to be taken to safety.

Three of the whales were carried about 12 miles offshore, where they were released Monday afternoon. Since then, data from satellite tags attached to the whales by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researchers show that the three whales swam roughly 15 miles southwest into the gulf as of Tuesday morning. Scientists believe the three whales are traveling together. RELATED STORY: Hundreds of volunteers help save five whales stranded off Florida beach

"They're headed in the right direction, which is good news," Clearwater Marine Aquarium CEO David Yates said. "Of course, that can change at any time, so we'll be following along closely."

The two other whales, who were smaller than the rest and believed to be younger, were taken on trucks to a Clearwater Marine Aquarium facility in Tarpon Springs for further medical treatment and testing.

Veterinarians working for the Aquarium haven't found any health problems with the two smaller whales and believe they'll be ready for release soon, Yates said. Video released by the aquarium shows the two whales floating peacefully in a tank while aquarium staff administer tests.

"They had a great night last night, they're doing fine right now," Yates said. "Unless we have some major medical issues come up, they're on track to be released soon."

The plan is to drop the two smaller whales as close to the satellite location of the other three as possible in the hopes that they can reconnect, according to Yates.

"Hopefully they'll be back together very soon," he said.

Contact Aaron Holmes at 706-347-1880 or aholmes@tampabay.com. Follow @aaronpholmes.