December 31, 2013 at 5:20 pm #1870MikeKeymaster
At least 40 whales die in mass stranding off Tasmania
At least 40 whales have died in a mass stranding off the island of Tasmania.
Last Updated: 10:39AM GMT 23 Jan 2009
‘It’s going to be difficult to get to them because they are big animals’ Photo: Tas Parks and Wildlife Just seven of the pod of about 50 sperm whales are showing signs of life after the grounding at Perkins Island in the state’s northwest.
Strong winds and high tides in the area, which is only accessible by boat, are hampering efforts to reach the whales and attempt a rescue.
Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Services spokeswoman Liz Wren told Australian Associated Press that a helicopter had flown over the island today to assess the situation.
“It’s going to be difficult to get to them because they are big animals – up to 18 metres for males – that makes it very difficult, and they are actually located on an island off the coast,” Ms Wren said.
Conservation experts are discussing how to help the mammals.
Parks and Wildlife spokesman Chris Arthur said initially only two whales were believed to have survived.
“There’s now approximately seven animals that are kicking and looking as if they want to go into the sea,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
“So we’re hoping that with the high tide and with the staff that we’re getting on site, we can actually do something.”
Mr Arthur says it is the largest sperm whale stranding he has seen and it will be a difficult rescue.
“We’ve got gale force winds forecast and the weather doesn’t look as if it’s going to be kind.
“It could hamper operations in that it could make navigating in the sand flats where these animals are very difficult.”
Once rescuers reached the pod they poured water on the stranded whales to keep them alive until high tide.
A team of six wildlife rangers reached the survivors by dinghy and were attempting to keep their skin wet, Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service spokeswoman Liz Wren said.
Young whales were among the survivors, they said.
More than 150 whales died in a mass beaching at Sandy Cape, also in the state’s remote northwest, in November last year.
It is not known why whales become stranded, but one theory suggests that because whales have strong social ties, if one gets into trouble its distress calls may prompt the rest of the pod to follow and become beached themselves.
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