Rescuers attempt to save lone remaining beached whale
Rough seas whipped by strong winds have prevented a sole surviving pilot whale from returning to the sea after 200 whales and dolphins became stranded on a beach in southern Australia.
The survivor was among 54 whales and five bottlenose dolphins that rescuers refloated from Naracoopa Beach on Tasmania state’s King Island after the mass beaching. However, the whale struggled to reach open sea, and was later guided back to the beach by rescuers.
Chris Arthur, Tasmania’s Parks and Wildlife Service incident controller, said 12 rescuers carried the 10-foot adult whale up the beach to above the high-water mark and were keeping it cool and upright beneath wet fabric.
“We’ll stabilize the animal now and work out what we’re going to do with it,” he said.
“The weather is not conducive at the moment to a rescue attempt,” he added, referring to the northeasterly winds and rough seas.
The danger of the other rescued whales and dolphins returning to the beach had passed, Mr Arthur said.
A total of 194 pilot whales and seven dolphins became stranded on Sunday evening — the fourth beaching incident in recent months in Tasmania.
Up to 150 local volunteers helped wildlife experts keep dozens of the animals alive and to refloat them on Monday.
It was not clear why the animals had beached on the island, halfway between Tasmania and mainland Australia. Strandings happen periodically in Tasmania as whales go by during their migration to and from Antarctic waters, but scientists do not know why it happens. It is unusual, however, for whales and dolphins to get stranded together.
In January, 45 sperm whales died after becoming stranded on a remote Tasmanian sandbar, even though rescuers worked for days to keep them cool and wet as they tried to move them back to the open water.
Last November, 150 long-finned pilot whales died after beaching on a rocky coastline in Tasmania. A week earlier, rescuers saved 11 pilot whales among a pod of 60 that had beached on the island state.