In one of the world's largest mass stranding events, authorities and rescuers have confirmed that 380 pilot whales have died on Tasmania's west coast.
Initially, 270 long-finned pilot whales were discovered stranded and stuck on sandbars on the remote beach. On September 23, a separate group of another 200 were spotted during an aerial reconnaissance to check how many whales were still alive, less than 6 miles (10 kilometers) to the south, taking the tally to 470.
Officials later confirmed that the newly found whales had all died.
The breaking news came despite the major rescue efforts dedicated to taking the whales back to the open ocean. Tasmania's Parks and Wildlife Service manager Nic Deka said, "We have got a more accurate count and we can confirm that 380 whales are dead. There's around 30 left still alive but the good news is that we have saved 50."
Around 30 whales are thought to still be alive. Deka also added that the second group of whales discovered on Wednesday morning didn’t seem to be in a condition that would warrant rescue.
Marine biologist Kris Carlyon explained that this likely was a stranding event of a big group, which was drawn into the shallow waters either by a prey or a dying matriarch. However, the exact reason behind the standing is still vastly unknown.
Carlyon said, "This is definitely the biggest [mass stranding] in Tasmania and we believe it is the biggest in Australia, in terms of numbers stranded and died."
The biggest hindrances that were standing in the way of the rescue operation were the sheer number of animals and the ice-cold water with unique tides. Now, as the battle to keep the remaining ones alive continues, authorities are also considering how to handle the carcasses that are growing in numbers.