Dead, stranded whales along Australia beach

SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — Around 230 pilot whales were found stranded on the rugged west coast of Tasmania Wednesday, with Australian officials saying only half appeared to be alive.

“A pod of approximately 230 whales has stranded near Macquarie Harbor,” said the state’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment.

“It appears about half of the animals are alive.”

Aerial images showed a devastating scene of dozens of black glossy mammals strewn along a stretch of beach where the frigid southern ocean meets the sand.

Almost two years ago to the day the area was the scene of another mass stranding involving almost 500 pilot whales. Just over 100 survived.

The causes of mass strandings are still not fully understood.

Scientists have suggested they could be caused by pods going off track after feeding too close to shore.

Pilot whales are highly sociable and can follow podmates who stray into danger.

Officials said marine conservation experts and staff with whale rescue gear were en route to the scene.

Meanwhile, Australian wildlife investigators were on Wednesday trying to piece together why more than a dozen young male sperm whales died in a mass stranding on a remote beach of Tasmania.

The 14 whales were discovered beached on King Island earlier this week, off Tasmania’s north coast.

Biologists and a veterinarian from the state’s conservation agency have traveled to the small island to investigate, with an aerial survey finding no other stranded whales.

The young whales’ deaths may be a case of “misadventure,” wildlife biologist Kris Carlyon from the state government conservation agency told the local Mercury newspaper.

“The most common reason for stranding events is misadventure, they might have been foraging close to shore, there might have been food and possibly they were caught on a low tide,” Carlyon said.

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