94 pilot whales refloated in Tasmania, some re-strand

Sydney, Australia, Sep 24 (efe-epa).- Ninety-four of the 470 long-finned pilot whales stranded off the west coast of the southern Australian state of Tasmania have been refloated in “one hell of an effort,” local authorities said Friday.

“Efforts continue to rescue 12 to 20 whales that have the greatest chance of survival,” the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment said in a statement late afternoon.

Marine Conservation Program wildlife biologist Kris Carlyon said: “We are getting up to 94 animals released and that is one hell of an effort. The best case scenario is these animals will regroup and rebond.”

Some of the whales had re-stranded overnight and some of those had died, Carlyon said. However, rescue teams were assessing those still alive and will look at refloating them.

On Monday, 270 whales were found spread over three locations in Macquarie Harbor – two sandbars and one beach – and on Wednesday morning an additional 200 were found 7-10 kilometers away. By Thursday 380 had died.

The mass stranding event on the west coast is thought to be the worst in Tasmania’s history, and Carlyon said Friday that the circumstances were unique.

“We haven’t dealt with a stranding of this type before and we are using new and novel techniques as part of the rescue event. Moving the animals offshore – we haven’t had to do this with pilot whales before on such a scale. Bringing animals alongside a boat is a new technique for us,” Carlyon said.

Collection of the dead whales began Friday to stop them drifting into the harbor.

“Today we will be trialling a technique for burial at sea,” Incident Controller and Parks and Wildlife Service regional manager Nic Deka said.

“Our aim is to remove the carcasses from Macquarie Harbor as quickly as possible. Ideally it could take four to five days, but it could take several days depending on wind, tide and current,” he added.

The local government warned mariners that drifting carcasses may create a navigation hazard.

Carlyon, who on Tuesday highlighted the difficulty in determining the reasons why whales become stranded en masse, suggested that they could have approached the coast in search of food or “simple misadventure” by one or two whales that would have been followed by the rest of the pod. EFE-EPA


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