230 whales stranded on a Tasmanian beach

230 whales stranded on a Tasmanian beach

Beached whales

Tasmanian officials said half of the whales were still alive

More than 200 whales have been found stranded on a remote beach on the west coast of Tasmania, Australia.

Half of the pod is believed to be pilot whales, still alive. Rescuers are being dispatched to the area.

It is not clear what caused the whales to strand on a sand flat at the entrance to Macquarie Harbour, the same remote location where Australia’s worst stranding occurred two years ago.

It comes days after a separate mass at a beach in northern Tasmania.

As a result of the incident on Tuesday, 14 young sperm whales were found dead on King’s Island, in the Bass Strait.

Experts were planning a rescue of the 230 whales found on Wednesday but the operation would be “complicated” due to the location, Tasmania’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment said in a statement.

“It seems that about half of the animals are alive.”

Macquarie Harbor is a large shallow inlet in a rural area. More of the whales are expected to die overnight.

Locals are covering the stranded whales with blankets and pouring buckets of water over them in an attempt to keep them alive.

The state environment department said marine conservation experts were traveling to the scene and would try to reswim those whales that are still healthy enough to survive.

Pilot whales are highly social mammals and are known for being stranded in groups as they travel in large, close-knit communities that rely on constant communication.

In September 2020, a massive rescue operation was launched when almost 500 pilot whales became stranded in the same bay.

More than 380 of the pilot whales died, but about 100 survived thanks to rescuers.

Wildlife scientist Vanessa Pirotta told the BBC that the similarities between the stranding and the last one – same species, same location, same time of year – are “unusual” and worrying.

The whales may have been “misguided”, having followed a sick or misguided leader, or been buried in shallower waters, she said.

Climate change could also have an impact – changes in the environment, water temperature or habitat could throw off the whales’ prey.

But the reasons behind whale trawls, she says, and why Tasmania sees so many of them, are a “mystery”.

There is a lot of marine life in the area – more animals could mean more adventures – and there are also many streams crossing the land.

But the “huge island” itself could be a navigational hazard for animals that use echolocation, she says.

“You’re going from basically open waters and then there’s land all of a sudden.”

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