After successfully returning 70 whales to the ocean, Australian rescuers hope to save 20 pilot whales stranded on the coast of Tasmania on Thursday.
“We believe that most of these animals have escaped,” Kris Carlyon, a wildlife biologist with the Australian Marine Conservation Program, said at a press conference on Thursday.
Tasmania’s largest stranding event was the discovery of 470 whales on the sandbar on the island’s west coast this week. While the final rescue work was underway, the staff were left to remove the bodies of 380 dead whales.
Nic Deka, the regional manager of the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service, said that these carcasses are best placed at sea before they swell and float into the ocean in the next few days.
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For the first time on Monday, the pods of about 270 whales were found stuck in the sand. Another 200 whales were spotted about six miles off the coast on Wednesday.
Once stranded, whales only need a few days to survive, because their organs-no longer suspended in water-are damaged.
The reason for the large number of detentions has not yet been determined.
Karin said that this incident is not uncommon, and there has been a double-stranded incident in New Zealand. But the current stranding has set a new record for Australia. The country’s latest record was in 1996, when 320 pilot whales were trapped in Dunsborough.
Carion said earlier this week: “We have no way to prevent this from happening in the future.”
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Pilot whales have a strong social connection, even if only a few members of the pod deviate from the course, others often follow. As the rescued animal tried to reconnect with the rest of the pod, this made it possible to go to sea again.
But Kalion said that as of Thursday, none of the rescued whales (marked for identification) had returned to the shoreline where the bodies were piled up.
Karin said that four whales alive but weakened and suffering from stranding must be hanged.
He said: “We gave these animals a chance, we tried to release them, but they didn’t do a good job. We don’t believe that trying to release them again is a viable option.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.