SYDNEY | About 90 pilot whales, marine animals of the cetacean family, have died and 180 others are still stranded in a Tasmanian bay in southern Australia, authorities said, who on Tuesday launched a difficult rescue operation.
Scientists said two large groups of this species of toothed cetaceans from the delphinid family had washed up on sandbanks in Macquarie Harbor, a bay closed by a narrow pass on the wild and sparsely populated west coast. from Tasmania.
Videos showed mammals attempting to maneuver to escape the shallows.
Government-employed biologist Kris Carlyon said about “a third” of the animals died Monday evening, and saving the pilot whales still alive would be a “challenge” that could take several days, especially as they approach them. necessarily involves using a boat.
Strandings of marine mammals are relatively common in Tasmania, but this is of particular concern given the large number of animals involved.
About sixty people, including employees of neighboring aquaculture farms, are involved in this rescue operation which is complicated by cold, humidity and an irregular tidal regime.
Mr. Carlyon said that most pilot whales, which are partially underwater, should be able to survive for several days and that this weather, unpleasant for humans, however, played in favor of these marine mammals. “It's bad weather for people, but for cetaceans it's ideal, because of the humidity and the coolness,” he said.
Rescuers will however need to select which animals to save, focusing on those that are most accessible, and those that appear healthier.
Most of the cetaceans in a group of about 30 washed up on a beach had died on Monday. And it is estimated that around sixty pilot whales stuck on sandbanks have died since then.
When these cetaceans – deeply social animals – are put back afloat, the other challenge will be to help the band avoid the sandbanks of Macquarie Harbor and return to the high seas.
Scientists are unable to explain with certainty the reasons for these massive strandings. It could be that the group got lost in these sloping waters getting too close to shore to hunt, or that they followed one or two animals that had stranded.