Nearly 200 pilot whales die on Australian coast
- State wildlife services say only 35 of the approximately 230 beech whales are still alive.
- Describe the tough battle ahead to save the survivors.
- Officials say a new technique for making mammals swim in deep water will be tested.
Hobart, Australia: Nearly 200 pilot whales have died after trapped themselves on an exposed, surf-sweep beach off Tasmania’s rugged west coast, Australian rescuers said on Thursday.
Only 35 of the approximately 230 beaches whale Still alive, according to the state wildlife services, who described an uphill battle to save the survivors.
Aerial images from the scene revealed dozens of shiny, dark mammals scattered along Ocean Beach, trapped at the waterline where the cold Southern Ocean meets the sand.
Locals covered some of the creatures with blankets and dunked them with buckets of seawater to keep them alive until more help arrived.
“We have found about 35 live animals on the beach and this morning the primary focus will be on the rescue and release of these animals,” said state wildlife operations manager, Brendan Clark.
“Unfortunately we have a high death rate on this particular stranded,” he said.
“The environmental conditions, the exposed west coast, the surf there on Ocean Beach, are definitely taking their toll on the animals.”
Helpers usually descend into the water and use harnesses to make the mammals swim in deeper waters, but officials said a new technology using mechanical assistance from an aquaculture firm will also be tested.
From there a vessel will carry them into deep clear water to avoid the newly trapped.
Two years ago Macquarie Harbor was the scene of the nation’s largest mass stranding, involving about 500 pilots. whale,
More than 300 pilot whales died during that stranding, despite the efforts of dozens of volunteers to free them in the frigid waters of Tasmania.
Clark said the latest stranding conditions were tougher for the whales than they were two years ago, when the animals were in “much more sheltered waters.”
Attention will also be given to the removal and disposal of carcasses, which often attract sharks.
Necropsy will be done to get a clue as to why the whale is coastalBut scientists still don’t fully understand why mass stranding occurs.
Scientists have suggested that the pods may derail after feeding too close to the shore.
Pilot whales – which can grow to be over six meters (20 ft) long – are also highly sociable, so they can follow stray podmates in danger.
This sometimes occurs when old, sick or injured animals swim to shore and other pod members follow, trying to respond to distress signals from the trapped whale.
Others believe that the gently sloping beaches found in Tasmania confuse the whales’ sonar by making them think they are in open water.
The latest strandings come days after a dozen young male sperm whales were found dead in an isolated massif on King Island between Tasmania and the Australian mainland.
State officials said the incident could be a case of “accident”.
Strandings are also common in nearby New Zealand.
According to official figures, about 300 animals come to the beach themselves annually and it is not unusual to run into groups of 20 to 50 pilot whales.
But when a “super pod” is involved, the numbers can run into the hundreds – in 2017, a staggering number of pilot whales, about 700, were stranded.