Australia saves 25 stranded pilot whales, rescue continues

Rescuers are battling to save 270 whales stranded on a sandbar in Macquarie Harbour on the rugged west coast of Tasmania

About 270 pilot whales are stranded in Strahan, a small town in Tasmania, an island off the southern coast of Australia.

The challenge will be what to do with those animals once they are refloated. They're scattered along two sandbars and the strip of beach, according to the Tasmanian Marine Conservation Program, which is leading the rescue operation.

The rescue mission could take several days to save the whales.

Tasmania last recorded a mass stranding in 2009 involving around 200 whales, according to the BBC.

Those at the scene have reportedly managed to ferry a number of the pilot whales back into open water as of Tuesday morning, but many more lives could be lost if they aren't helped quickly.

Parks and Wildlife regional manager Nic Deka said they were found during an aerial reconnaissance to check how many whales were still alive.

"In terms of the tides, when we start making an effort tomorrow it will be with an outgoing tide, so that'll be in our favor, but obviously tides go up and come down so we'll be aiming to make the most of the windows that we have", Deka said.

A police boat sailing close to the whales who stranded on a sandbar in Tasmania.


Other potential problems include an unexpected tide wash, and the potential for stricken whales to attract sharks to the area.

AdvertisementWorst mass stranding in a decade Pilot whales belong to the family of oceanic dolphins.

Mr Carlyon said multiple rescue methods would be trialled and a lot would depend on how the whales responded.

About one third of the whales had died by Monday night and most were inaccessible by boat, Carlyon said.

According to NPR, Tasmania has more whale strandings than any other Australian state, and Macquarie Harbour, where the pilot whales are now, is one of the most common stranding sites. With the clock ticking, Carleone said, they are forced to sort by starting with the whales that have the best chance of success.

Scientists said it was unclear what caused the latest stranding, but Carlyon suggested the pod may have gone off track after feeding close to the shoreline or by following one or two whales that strayed.

"It seems to be a notorious whale trap... you do tend to get these mass stranding events there", she told AFP.

Mr Deka said pilot whales were a robust species and the survivors have a chance of lasting several days on the sandbars if the weather stays cool. They wore wetsuits and were working in shifts to prevent hypothermia.