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7 beached pilot whales die on Galapagos

In this photo released by Galapagos National park, volunteers and park employees, try to rescue one of 12 whales that washed ashore late Saturday on Isabela Island, the largest of the famed Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, Sunday, March 18, 2007. (AP Photo/Parque Nacional Galapagos)

Mon Mar 19, 2:53 AM ET

Seven pilot whales that came ashore on the Galapagos Islands died Sunday, despite the efforts of rescuers who dug makeshift pools in the sand to keep them from dehydrating. Five other whales in the group were returned to the ocean.

The whales, which are 10 to 30 feet long, came ashore late Saturday near the southern town of Puerto Villamil on Isabela Island, the largest of the Galapagos, said Rosa Leon, a spokeswoman for the Galapagos National Park.

"We succeeded in moving five whales into the open sea, three miles from the shore, which we expect will keep them from returning," she said.

The Galapagos Islands, 625 miles off Ecuador's coast, were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979 for their exotic flora and fauna, including giant tortoises, marine iguanas and blue-footed boobies.

A study of finches on the islands inspired Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

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