A total of 70 of the 470 pilot whales stranded in South Australia have been rescued so far, while another 380 have died, local authorities reported Thursday.
The Tasmanian Government’s Marine Conservation Program, an island state in the south of the country, said on its Facebook page that rescue teams are now focusing on saving the 20 whales trapped in the sand that remain alive.
Supported by volunteers, the teams are racing against time to move the whales into deeper waters from areas near the shore of Macquarie Bay on Tasmania’s west coast, where the backs and dorsal fins of the cetaceans can be seen.
“As long as they are alive and in the water there is hope, but as time passes they become more depleted and their chances of survival diminish,” Nic Deka, director of the Tasmanian National Parks Incident Management Service, said Wednesday.
The first 270 pilot whales, which measure about 6.7 meters and weigh 2.5 tons, were found earlier this week, while another 200 were found dead on Wednesday between 7 and 10 kilometers away.
This is not the first time several whales have been stranded on Tasmania’s beaches, especially in Macquarie Bay, where the last mass incident occurred a decade ago when 197 were trapped.
Scientists have not yet been able to explain why whales sometimes stray from their routes and become stranded in shallow waters.
However, in previous incidents the scientific community has considered the possibility that whales, which can travel in groups of a thousand, come to the coast attracted by the sonar of large ships or guided by a disoriented group head due to illness.
Some experts believe that they are social animals and if one of them makes a mistake and goes into shallow water, the rest follow.