For some unknown reason, 270 long-finned pilot whales were found stranded and stuck on sandbars on a remote beach in Tasmania on September 21. As volunteers and scientists race against time to rescue them, it has now been reported that around one-third of the pilot whales have died, with the rescuers managing to return 25 to the sea.
Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service Manager Nic Deka told the local press Tuesday afternoon, "We’ve rescued about 25 at the present time and escorted them out the channel and out to sea and crews are continuing to work, so that number will increase before we get to the end of the day."
The rescue teams are working nonstop
The devastating images from the scene showed numerous large mammals trying to find their way back to the sea and maneuvering in the shallow water. In order to rescue the whales, the rescue teams are placing a sling under each animal and dragging it to the open sea by boat.
There are factors complicating this effort though, such as the freezing water temperatures and the majority of the whales weighing more than three tons. According to wildlife biologist Kris Carlyon, the progress is expected to be slow. He stated, "We’ll take the animals with the best chance to start with and the ones that we are able to deal with."
As the number of saved whales continues to grow, there is always the daunting possibility of them not staying safe. Carlyon added, "There is a risk that they will return and re-strand. We’re hopeful that that’s not going to be the case."
Why does this happen?
Such cases are sadly common in the region; however, the reason why is still unknown.
According to the marine biologists, the whales could have taken a wrong turn, chased a prey blindly into shallow water, or maybe followed a dying whale who wanted to beach itself.
After they've become stranded though, it becomes increasingly hard for them to go back to the open ocean since they exhaust themself trying to dislodge themselves and end up drowning.
Beachings are common in Tasmania; however, a beaching of this multitude was not seen in more than a decade. Back in 2009, a mass stranding involving 200 whales was recorded.