DTask forces in Tasmania resumed the rescue of stranded pilot whales on Friday after some of the animals that had been taken out to sea returned to the beach. As the authorities reported, fewer than ten of the original more than 230 marine mammals were still alive.
They swam back to the beach after rescuers had brought 32 of the animals, weighing up to two and a half tons, into deep water. Mass strandings are not uncommon among pilot whales, which are known for their close social behavior.
Individual rescued animals often return to their group, even if many members have already died by then.
The cadavers of the approximately 200 dead animals are now also to be taken to the open sea, as the decomposition process on land takes too long and there is a strong odor, the authorities said.
However, the priority is rescuing stranded animals and other specimens that may stray onto the beach again, said Brendon Clark of the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service. After all, the weather conditions, with cold and rain, are such that the animals had a fairly good chance of survival, said his colleague Kris Carlyon.
The animals were spotted Wednesday in Macquarie Harbor Bay, both on Ocean Beach and on a sandbank. Aerial photographs showed the marine mammals lined up along the waterline.
There are different theories as to why the dolphin species is prone to mass strandings. This is how pilot whales get lost when their sonar picks up confusing signals. Noise from shipping traffic and injuries from shark attacks could play a role. When the animals entered shallow waters, they sent out stress signals, which in turn attracted their fellow fish.
Just a few days earlier, 14 sperm whales had died off the coast of Tasmania’s King Island. And exactly two years ago, 470 whales were stranded in the same bay.