At least 270 pilot whales are stranded at sandbanks in Australia — and a third of them have already died

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  • Marine biologists in Australia are working on a rescue plan to save a huge pod of whales that are stranded on a narrow sandbank off the west coast of Tasmania.
  • Rescuers fear at least 90 of them have already died.
  • Tasmania last witnessed a mass stranding in 2009 where 200 whales beached themselves
  • They can grow 7 meters (around 23 ft) long and weigh upto 3 tonnes — making it difficult for the rescuers to move them.
Marine biologists in Australia are working on a rescue plan to save a huge pod of whales that are stranded on a narrow sandbank off the west coast of Tasmania.

Officials don’t have the exact number of whales stranded but they believe around 270 animals are stuck at three different sites in shallow water in Macquarie Heads. Rescuers fear at least 90 of them have already died.



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Worst mass stranding in a decade
Pilot whales belong to the family of oceanic dolphins. They can grow 7 meters (around 23 ft) long and weigh upto 3 tonnes — making it difficult for the rescuers to move them. These whales are known to follow a leader while travelling and also gather around any injured or distressed whale among them.

“While strandings are not uncommon in Tasmania, and while strandings of this scale aren’t (unprecedented), we certainly haven’t had one for at least 10 years,” Nic Deka, a regional manager for Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service, said.


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Tasmania last witnessed a mass stranding in 2009 where 200 whales beached themselves. In November 2018, around 145 whales were found dead on a remote beach in New Zealand.


The government scientist who first saw the mass stranding from air estimated only 70 whales, however, the number of whales appeared to be much bigger.

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Mission to rescue the whales is underway
As of now, 60 people are helping with the rescue mission, including parks and wildlife staff. Rescuers will try to refloat some of the whales and assess their behaviour.

“Basically we’ll take the animals with the best chance to start with and the ones that we are able to deal with,” Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service’s Nic Deka said.

It is unknown why these whales often beach themselves — a phenomenon where whales strand themselves on land, often beaches — but they can survive for several days if the weather is cool.
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The rescue mission could take several days to save the whales.

“We don’t really know how long this rescue is going to take. This morning’s phase will be critical in determining what is possible and then we’ll have to deal with other factors like weather, like tides and all that will come into it,” Dr Kris Carlyo said.

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