Rescuers Attempt to Save Stranded Whales on Sandbar off Tasmania
A massive rescue operation has been going on to save around 270 whales stranded on a sandbar off the remote west coast of the Australian island of Tasmania on September 21. Unfortunately, at least a third of 270 whales have already died and more are feared to be dying; however, the rescuers were able to save 25 of the animals and are trying to escort more back into the deep waters.
The pilot whales, which are a species of oceanic dolphin that grows 7 meters long and can weigh up to 3 tons, were found in shallow waters off the west coast of the island. As to what drew the whales to the shore is still undetermined. Marine biologists say the rescue mission will likely take several days.
Although whale beachings are quite common in the region, such a massive number has not been seen in over a decade. Tasmania last recorded a mass stranding in 2009, which involved around 200 whales. In 2018, more than 100 pilot whales died after beaching off the coast of New Zealand.
Tasmania’s Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment said the whales were stuck in three groups in shallow water at Macquarie Heads, about 200 kilometers northwest of the state capital Hobart.
Government scientists first believed the mass stranding involved about 70 whales when it was viewed from the air, but a closer inspection discovered a much larger number. The animals were only reachable by boat, restricting the number of rescuers able to reach them.
About 60 people – including volunteers and local fish-farm workers – are fighting cold and wet conditions to save the whales. It is not known why whales, which travel together in pods, sometimes beach themselves, however, they are known to trail a leader, as well as gather around an injured or distressed member of the group.