About 380 whales have died in what is suspected to be Australia’s largest stranding on record, officials say.
Since Monday, hundreds of long-finned pilot whales have been found beached on Tasmania’s west coast. Rescuers had managed to save 50 by late on Wednesday, and they were trying to help the remaining estimated 30 whales, reports BBC.
Tasmanian government officials said the rescue effort would continue “as long as there are live animals”.
“While they’re still alive and in water, there’s still hope for them – but as time goes on they do become more fatigued,” said Nic Deka, regional manager for Tasmania’s Parks and Wildlife Service.
He added the focus would now also shift to removing the hundreds of carcasses scattered along the coast. A clean-up plan is still being worked out – in the past carcasses have been buried on the shore or dragged out to open sea.
It is not fully understood why the whales became stranded. The species is known to be prone to getting beached. The stranding, one of the largest ever recorded globally, eclipses a previous national record of 320 set in Western Australia in 1996.
The whales largely washed up on sand spits in the waters around an area called Macquarie Heads. The first rescuers on Monday counted about 270 whales, but a helicopter on Tuesday spotted another 200 whales nearby.
Officials said the second group may have washed in with the tide, but was believed to be part of the same pod.
More than 80% of Australian whale strandings take place in Tasmania and experts say Macquarie Heads is a known hotspot.
Tasmania’s previous biggest stranding was in 1935 with 294 pilot whales. Its last mass stranding was in 2009 and involved about 200 pilot whales.
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