32 pilot whales rescued from 230 stranded in Tasmania: NPR

This video shows rescuers in shallow water with whales near Strahan, Australia, on Thursday.

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This video shows rescuers in shallow water with whales near Strahan, Australia, on Thursday.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation via AP

HOBART, Australia – Conservationists on Thursday rescued 32,230 whales found a day earlier on the wild and remote west coast of Australia’s island nation of Tasmania.

Tasmania’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment said half of the pilot whales washed ashore from Macquarie Harbor were still alive on Wednesday.

Tasmania Parks and Conservation Service manager Brendon Clark said only 35 people had survived the surf overnight.

“Of the 35 that survived this morning, we’ve been able to swim, rescue and release … 32 of those animals and that’s a great result,” Clark told reporters in nearby Strahan late Thursday.

“We have three more alive at the north end of Ocean Beach, but due to access restrictions, mostly tidal effects, we just haven’t been able to get to those three animals safely today. But they will be our priority in the morning,” added Clark.

An image from the video shows rescuers using a sling to move one of the whales near Strahan on Thursday.

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An image from the video shows rescuers using a sling to move one of the whales near Strahan on Thursday.

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The whales beached two years to the day after the largest mass whale in Australian history was discovered in the same port.

On September 21, 2020, approximately 470 finned pilot whales were found stuck on sandbanks. After a week-long effort, 111 of the whales were rescued, but the rest died.

The entrance to the harbor is a notoriously shallow and dangerous channel known as Hell’s Gate.

In this video footage, a whale swims after being released by rescuers near Strahan on Thursday.

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In this video footage, a whale swims after being released by rescuers near Strahan on Thursday.

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Kris Carlyon, a marine conservation program biologist, said the dead whales are being tested to see if they have toxins in their systems that could explain the disaster.

“These mass stranding events are usually the result of random strandings, and there are many reasons for this,” Carlyon said.

Local salmon farmer Linton Kringle helped with the 2020 rescue and said Thursday’s challenge was more difficult because the whales were in shallower, more open waters.

This video footage shows whales stranded on Ocean Beach near Strahan on Thursday.

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This video footage shows whales stranded on Ocean Beach near Strahan on Thursday.

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On Monday afternoon, 14 sperm whales were spotted on King Island in Bass Strait between the Australian mainland and Tasmania.

Olaf Meynecke, a marine scientist at Griffith University, said it was unusual for sperm whales to wash ashore. Warmer temperatures could also change ocean currents and move the whales’ traditional diet, he said.