11 whales saved after stranding



pilot whale

Credit: AFP

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SYDNEY: Australian rescuers Sunday saved 11 stranded whales by moving them by road to another beach and dragging them out to sea, an official said.

A pod of 64 pilot whales, most of them females and calves, beached on Anthony's Beach on the southern island of Tasmania on Saturday.

Fifty-two of the giant animals died after the stranding, but 12 surviving whales were looked after overnight by rescuers, Chris Arthur of Tasmania's Parks and Wildlife Service said.

Rescuers placed nets around the animals, which measured between 3 to 5 metres and weighed up to 1.5 tonnes, on Sunday morning and manually hauled them onto car trailers to take them to another beach.

"We used specially built car trailers, which we were able to put up to two whales in each. And we transported those animals 17 kilometres to Godfrey's Beach," Arthur said.

The animals were then carefully dragged back into the water by about 70 rescuers. Arthur said the release went well and satellite trackers were placed on some of the whales to keep track of their progress.

But Arthur said one animal died as the rescue team was attempting to put it back into the water.

"We kept 12 of them alive, kept them going, and then we only lost one transporting them and getting them into the waters."

Samples will be taken from the deceased whales for scientific purposes and authorities were in the process of negotiating what to do with the bodies, Arthur said.

Whale strandings are not uncommon in Tasmania, and there are a number of such occurrences each year, Arthur said.

A number of theories have been put forward as to why whales strand themselves, but the phenomenon remains a subject of scientific debate. Some experts think that sonar from navy ships inhibits whales' sense of direction.