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Australian lifeguards rescue stranded pilot whales

Scientists still do not fully understand why mass strandings occur

Australian rescuers battled on Friday to retrieve the last surviving pilot whales from a mass stranding that killed nearly 200 animals on a beach in Tasmania.

Fewer than 10 shiny black mammals remain alive at Ocean Beach in remote western Tasmania, state wildlife services have said.

Marine wildlife experts have begun to wrap up a days-long rescue operation in heavy rain after a large group of animals, which are part of the dolphin family, washed up on a beach.

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“The priority remains to rescue and release the remaining animals and any others we identify in this chain,” he said.

Wildlife officers used forklifts to drag the whale carcasses across the beach, exposing them with their tails pointing into the cold ocean.

One small young calf could be seen tethered next to large adult pilot whales.

Weather forecasts indicate the “best opportunity” for the operation will be Sunday, Clark said.

Workers from Tasmanian marine farming company Petuna Aquaculture helped release the surviving whales into the sea.

“We will take this to the end to also remove, unfortunately, the whales that didn’t make it.”

Two years ago, the country’s largest mass stranding took place in Macquarie Harbour, involving almost 500 pilot whales.

Scientists still do not fully understand why mass strandings occur.

Pilot whales, which can grow to over six meters (20 feet) in length, are also very sociable, so they can follow pod mates into danger.

Others believe that gentle beaches like those found in Tasmania confuse the whales’ sonar, making them think they are in open water.

State officials said the incident may have been an “accident.”

According to official data, about 300 animals are washed ashore each year, and it is not uncommon for groups of 20 to 50 pilot whales to become stranded.


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