Rescuers Race Against Time to Save 270 Whales Stranded in Australia

Rodiano Bonacci
Settembre 24, 2020

Hundreds of whales are stranded in a remote sandbar off the coast of the Australian island Tasmania.

The animals are only accessible by boat, limiting the number of rescuers who can reach them. The rescue effort would begin early Tuesday with an out-going tide. "We've got animals that are semi-buoyant so it probably won't take too much to refloat those animals closer to the deeper water, and will involve just a bit of grunt from specialised crew in the water", Kris Carlyon, a wildlife biologist with the state government, told local media.

"In terms of mass whale strandings in Tasmania, this is up there with the trickiest", Mr Carlyon said from the nearby town of Strahan.

Rescuers fear at least 90 of them have already died.

Around 40 scientists, 20 police officers, fish farmers and volunteers are involved in the rescue effort, the hardest experts say they have encountered yet. Pilot whales, sperm whales and bottlenose dolphins are the species most frequently stranded.

"They are in water, but it's very hard to see how many of those whales are deceased or what condition they're in", he told reporters Strahan, a town in Tasmania.

While in 2018, a mass stranding saw about 145 pilot whales die on Stewart Island.

Survival rates ultimately depend on how long the whales have spent out of the water, she said.

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

However, Mr Carlyon said numerous partially submerged whales should be able to survive for the several days it would take his team to complete the rescue, which was affected by inclement weather. With the clock ticking, Carleone said, they are forced to sort by starting with the whales that have the best chance of success.

"Given that they're wet, they're cool, we've got some really suitable weather actually".

It's not entirely clear what caused the whales to wash up on shore, though Carlyon added that there have been a few other mass strandings in similar locations.

Though mass whale strandings occur relatively often in Tasmania, such a large group has not been seen in the area for more than a decade.

"With whales being very social animals, if you take one out from such a large group they might hang around or re-strand". They wore wetsuits and were working in shifts to prevent hypothermia.

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