Over 380 long-finned pilot whales have been confirmed dead after nearly 500 were stranded on Tasmania’s west coast. The whales are believed to have been lured to the shore to feed or erroneously guided by one of their own. By late Wednesday, rescuers had managed to save 50 of the stranded whales and were working hard to save the remaining 30. According to Tasmanian officials, the rescue efforts are to continue as long as the whales are still alive.
Nic Deka, the regional manager for Tasmania’s Parks and Wildlife Service, said that the government has hope of rescuing the remaining whales and as long as they are still alive, they have a chance of getting back to the water. However, Deka also explained that the chances of survival get slimmer every second that passes by. “While they’re still alive and in water, there’s still hope for them — but as time goes on they do become more fatigued.”
While the rescuers are making efforts to save the living whales, the Australian government is working on a plan to clean up the carcasses. The government has to decide the best way of disposing of the perished whales before embarking on the process. In previous cases, carcasses were buried on the shoreline to reduce the cost of transportation.
It is still not clear why the whales in Tasmania ended up beached, but investigations are underway. This incident surpasses one of the largest strandings ever recorded in Australia in 1996, when 320 whales were beached. Tasmania is prone to whale strandings, with more than 80% of the continent’s stranding events occurring here.
According to Kris Carlyon, Marine Conservation Program wildlife biologist, the latest mass stranding is the largest to occur in Australia in terms of the number of whales stranded and deaths. Carlyon said that the whales might have been lured into the coast for food or misguided adventure.
Pilot whales travel in groups. Unfortunately, their bond means that they may get stranded in masses and eventually lead to huge losses, as is currently happening in Tasmania.
Image via Ursula Di Chito