TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. (FOX 13) - Scientists say they're seeing positive signs from two pilot whales brought to be cared for in Tarpon Springs after being found beached in Pinellas County.
The two were separated from three others in the pod on Redington Beach Monday morning. They are recovering at Clearwater Marine Aquarium's brand-new rehab facility at Fred Howard Park in Tarpon Springs.
"It's been a surprise to all of us, obviously. They had a pretty big day yesterday and to see them swimming so well and getting ready to go home, it's great news for all of us," said Bill Potts with Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA).
Soon after the whales were discovered, the beach transformed into a makeshift animal hospital for several hours. Beachgoers literally jumped in to help crews from CMA, Mote Marine, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The three other pilot whales were deemed healthy enough to be fitted with GPS trackers and released back into deeper water. Scientists believe a pod of pilot whales will beach together when one is in distress, so separating them may increase their chance of survival. However, they will try to reunite the pod once the two in Tarpon Springs, both males, are well enough to return to the ocean.
"The other three we're satellite tracking are doing just what we'd hope they'd do, they're swimming out in the wild, so they're not coming back to shore, so it looks like we've had a successful release," said Potts.
Meanwhile, inside CMA's 75,000-gallon pool in Tarpon Springs, the pair of whales are being monitored around the clock. They're the very first patients cared for at the facility.
"We hope these can get home as soon as possible. It won't be today, but we're hoping, in a perfect world, it would be sometime this week," Potts added.
It is still unclear what caused them to beach in the first place.