Scores Of Pilot Whales
Beached In Tasmania -
Over 70 Already Dead
Note - There is a major amount of scientific data which points to the manmade ocean noise of sonar devices as causing whales to beach themselves in an attempt to escape the painful sound. See this link for more information:
Rescuers in Tasmania have been racing against time to save dozens of beached pilot whales after around 100 of the mammals stranded themselves over the weekend.
More than 20 of the whales, which began washing up on beaches east of Hobart on Saturday, have already died.
And while volunteers worked to save the whales at Marion Bay, another group of 50 were discovered dead at a beach to the north.
The whales are thought to have swum ashore in response to distress calls from young whales who might have lost their sense of direction.
Volunteers threw buckets of seawater over the survivors and using small motorboats to try to tow them into deeper water. Many returned to the beach.
Others were lifted onto trucks and carried 20 kilometres to where the beach shelves steeply to deep water.
The BBC's Australia correspondent Red Harrison says no one seems to know why whales beach themselves.
But with international conventions banning whale killing, more and more of the mammals are turning to the beaches of southern Australia.
Calf's distress calls lure adults out to sea
The latest mass beaching started when 56 whales came ashore at Marion Bay, about 50 km east of the capital, Hobart, on Saturday.
Rescuers used boats to separate the beached whales from those still offshore before carrying an 18-month calf out to sea hoping it would lure the group seaward with its calls.
Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service director Max Kitchell said: "I've never seen this technique used before but it got at least four back out.
"We learn something each time with these strandings.
"We turned it round to face the animals on the beach, so it was vocalising, it was making these distress calls, and that encouraged the other animals to head out towards it.''
But when rescuers chased the whales out of the shallows, they discovered a bigger pod of about 100 heading for shore. Half of them later beached.
Then came news from Orford, 20 kilometres (12 miles) to the north, that more than 60 more whales had beached themselves there and most of them had died.
"Then just as we think we've got it under control, we get a kick in the guts," Kitchell said.
Earlier this year at least 62 sperm whales died after 65 of the animals beached on a remote shore in Tasmania.