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Whales beached on King Island

G-Online

Wildlife

whale stranding

Tasmanian wildlife officers attach a satellite tracking device to a pilot whale in November 2008, after a mass beaching on Tasmania's north-west coast near Stanley. 53 whales died on this occasion.

Credit: AFP / Department of Primary Industries and Water

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Almost 200 pilot whales and several bottlenose dolphins have been stranded on King Island, in Bass Straight, the ABC has reported.

Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service officer Chris Arthur told the ABC that only about 50 whales and some dolphins are still alive. He is hopeful that the surviving whales can be saved.

Whale strandings in the past three months:

  • 53 whales died at Anthony's Beach on the southern island of Tasmania, on November 22, 2008.
  • 155 whales died after stranding on rocks at Sandy Cape on the west coast of the southern island of Tasmania, on November 29, 2008.
  • 48 Sperm whales perished at Perkins Island near the mouth of the Duck River at Smithton in Tasmania on January 25.

Since 1900 there have been 78 whale strandings recorded in Tasmania, which accounts for 80 per cent of such events in Australia, with several involving more than 200 animals.

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.