HOBART, Australia — Officials say around one third of an estimated 270 pilot whales that became stranded on Australia’s island state of Tasmania have died.
The whales were discovered Monday on a beach and two sand bars near the west coast town of Strahan.
Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service Manager Nic Deka said 25 of the whales had been rescued by late Tuesday afternoon.
The rescue operation is ongoing, with about 60 people involved in the effort. It’s expected to take days, dependent on weather and tide conditions.
Wildlife biologist Dr. Kris Carlyon said marine conservation experts involved with rescue efforts are trying to refloat animals and assess behavior.
“These are long-finned pilot whales they are quite a robust species. They are wet, they are cool, and today we have some really suitable weather for them,” Carlyon said. “If conditions stay the same they can survive for quite a few days.”
Carlyon said a lot of the rescue efforts will depend on how the animals respond once they have water underneath them.
“Triage is going to be quite important here,” she said. “We have got animals over a large area and in a really challenging location, so we are going to take the animals with the best chance to start with and the ones we are able to deal with.”
The wildlife service said whale strandings are not uncommon in Tasmania and neither are strangings of this scale. However, officials say there has not been one of this level for the past decade.