Rescuers in Australia have saved 70 pilot whales and are hoping to save about 20 more after a large group became stranded off the coast of Australia.
The whales have been stranded on a sandbank on Tasmania, an island just south of Australia, for several days. While some have managed to free themselves, at least 380 of the stranded whales have already died due to severe organ damage.
The whales are stranded in two groups about 6 miles apart.
“While they’re still alive and in water, there’s still hope for them — but as time goes on they do become more fatigued,” Nic Deka, regional manager for Tasmania’s Parks and Wildlife Service, told BBC News.
A team of about 60 have used slings to pull the whales away from the beaches and “re-float” them before guiding them into deeper water.
Pilot whales can grow as long as 22 feet weigh as many as three tons, making the rescue efforts especially laborious.
It’s believed to be the largest mass stranding of whales in Australia’s history.
While the cause of the stranding is unknown, pilot whales are incredibly social and if even one pod leader mistakenly swam too close to the shore, the rest of the pod could soon follow. The western waters off Tasmania are also known as a hotspot for beached whales.
However, none of the rescued whales have returned to the areas so far, according to Kris Carlyon, a wildlife biologist with Australia’s Marine Conservation Program.