WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- Over 500 pilot whales were found stranded along the island of Tasmania.
- When beached, whales have a few days before they suffocate from the weight of their own organs.
- Rescuers remain optimistic that they can still save more of the whales and get them off the sandbar.
Around 500 pilot whales were stranded on Wednesday along the coast of the Australian island of Tasmania. A rescue operation is currently underway.
Nic Deka, regional manager for Tasmania’s Parks and Wildlife Service, said that they’re focusing their efforts on any animals that may have survived.
Around 270 whales were first found trapped on a sandbar on Monday. Though rescuers managed to refloat 25, around a third of the whales had already died. In a bay less than six miles away from where the first pod was stranded, another 200 were discovered on Wednesday.
Overall, Deka said that at least 380 whales died and 50 were saved. Though crews are being sent out to assess the situation, Deka said most rescuers will remain focused on the first pod.
Though many different things could have caused the whales to swim off course — extreme weather, toxins from algae, and diseases — the cause of the mass stranding hasn’t been determined yet.
When whales are beached, their organs become damaged in a matter of days as they are no longer suspended by the water. It’s an “incredibly painful way to go” as the whales become suffocated by the weight of their own bodies.
Nicola Hodgins, policy manager for the British charity Whale and Dolphin Conservation, said that pilot whales are extremely social creatures and stick closely with their pod. The whales could even risk the entire pod — when one swims in the wrong direction, the others will follow.
Thankfully, Australian officials said that the rescued whales are so far staying safely away in deeper water. Rescuers are remaining optimistic about getting more off the sandbar.