Hordes of whales die as beach rescue ramps up in Tasmania
Macquarie Harbour, Australia - A pod of 230 pilot whales has ended up stranded on the west coast of Tasmania as rescuers scramble to the area in hopes of helping the animals.
"It appears about half of the animals are alive," the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania said Wednesday in a press release.
Most of the large mammals are stranded on Ocean Beach and some are stuck on a sand flat inside Macquarie Harbor.
A team of rescuers from the Marine Conservation Program and the local authorities were getting together gear and heading to the area.
Two years ago in 2020, in what was the largest mass stranding in Australia to date, almost 500 pilot whales were washed up on the same beach. Despite a weeklong attempt, rescuers were only able to save 111 of them.
The public has been urged to stay clear of the area, and was reminded that "[whales] are a protected species, even once deceased, and it is an offense to interfere with a carcass."
This mass stranding comes just days after a bachelor pod – which is a group of young male sperm whales – were found dead on King Island, off the northern coast of Tasmania. Per NPR, authorities are still looking into the circumstances, as it's unusual for sperm whales to be washed ashore.
UPDATE, September 22, 04:30 AM EDT: 200 beached whales die in pounding surf in Tasmania
As of Thursday, only 35 of the 230 stranded pilot whales are alive despite rescue efforts that continue, per the Associated Press.
According to Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service manager Brendon Clark, the pounding surf took its toll on the beached animals overnight.
"Today’s focus will be on rescue and release operations," he said.
Wildlife experts are unsure as to why mass strandings have occurred in this particular area twice now.
Cover photo: Screenshot/ Facebook/Marine Conservation Program