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HomeOpinionMore than 200 whales stranded in Australia, and authorities fear deaths

More than 200 whales stranded in Australia, and authorities fear deaths


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Nearly 230 pilot whales were found stranded on Wednesday off the west coast of Tasmania, Australia, and only half appeared to be alive, officials said.

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“A group of approximately 230 whales ran aground near the port of Macquarie,” the Tasmanian Department of Natural Resources and Environment said. “It looks like half the animals are alive,” he added.

Aerial footage shows a devastating scene of dozens of cetaceans scattered along a stretch of beach where icy water meets sand.

Residents threw blankets at the survivors and used buckets of water to keep them alive, while others tried to free themselves without success. In the same area, many were dead.

Officials announced that marine conservation experts and staff with whale rescue equipment were on their way to the scene.

They will try to return those that are strong enough to survive back to the water and will likely have to tow the dead animals out to sea to avoid attracting sharks to the region.

Almost two years ago, the same region was the scene of another mass stranding, with almost 500 pilot whales, of which only 100 survived. The causes of mass strandings are not fully understood.

Scientists suggest it could be caused by groups that veer off course after feeding too close to shore. Pilot whales are very sociable and tend to follow their group mates when they get into danger.

Sometimes it happens when old, sick or injured whales swim to shore and other members of the group follow them in an attempt to respond to the distress signals from the beached whale.

Others are confused and believe they are in the open sea when they hear high-frequency sonar, when in fact they are on steep beaches, as is the case with beached whales in Tasmania.

This week, 14 dead young male sperm whales were also found stranded on a remote beach on King Island, off Tasmania’s north coast.

The death of the cetaceans could be a case of “misadventure”, wildlife biologist Kris Carlyon of the government’s environmental agency told the local newspaper Mercury.

“The most common cause of these events is misadventure, they may have gone for food close to shore, they may have found food and possibly got stuck at low tide,” explained Carlyon. “This is the theory at the moment,” she added.

New Zealand also records groundings relatively frequently. In the country, nearly 300 animals are found stranded per year on average, according to official figures. It is not uncommon to see groups of 20 to 50 pilot whales stranded on a beach.

But the numbers can reach hundreds, as in 2017, when around 700 whales were stranded.

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