27 October 2005

More than 130 whales die on Tasmanian beach

A third pod of whales stranded themselves on a remote Tasmanian beach on Wednesday even as wildlife officials and about 100 volunteers struggled to keep the earlier survivors afloat.

More than 130 pilot whales had died in Marion Bay on the island in the preceding 24 hours. Only about 12 could be saved.

Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife spokesperson Liz Wren said that most of the whales had died before rescuers reached them on Tuesday.

Marion Bay is only 60km from Hobart, but is isolated and can be reached easily only by boat.

Seven years ago, 204 pilot whales beached at Marion Bay and 110 died. Pilot whales - a type of dolphin - often beach in Marion Bay and on nearby shores.

It is not known what causes them to beach.

Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife officer Ingrid Albion told Australia's ABC Radio that only one whale needed to come ashore for the rest of a herd to follow.

"They use sonar, so they can become confused when they come into sandy beaches," she said.

"Only one of them has to get into trouble and make a wrong turn and they'll actually call the rest of the pod to them."

Albion said records showed there had been 2 768 strandings up to October 2003.

At least 250 of these had been in Marion Bay.

"I always feel like crying when I go and look at them," Albion said.

"I wish we could have saved them all."

Source: www.iol.co.za


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