Australians try to save 11 stranded whales

November 23, 2008 8:01:01 AM PST
Rescuers moved 11 pilot whales more than 7 miles to a deep-water beach in the hope they would return to sea after the mammals became stranded in southeastern Australia, wildlife officials said Sunday.

The 11 are the last of a pod of 64 whales found stranded on Anthony's Beach in the island state of Tasmania early Saturday. The pod is maternal, meaning it consists only of females and calves.

Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Services manager Chris Arthur said the 11 whales were hoisted in large slings into specially equipped trucks then driven the 7.5 miles to Godfrey's beach, where volunteers dragged the slings into the water.

The size of the 11 whales was not known, but a female pilot whale can measure up to 16 feet and weigh up to 1.5 tons.

"The animals will be stabilized, held in deeper water, exercised, and hopefully on the high tide this afternoon we will be able to shepherd them out to open water," Arthur said.

Rescuers hope the whales will rejoin another migratory pod once they swim back into the Bass Strait, which separates the island of Tasmania from southern Australia.

Most of the pod were already dead when they were discovered Saturday, and one died overnight Saturday despite volunteers spending the night pouring water over the animal to keep it from overheating.

Strandings are not uncommon in Tasmania, where the whales pass by on their migration to and from Antarctic waters. It is not known why whales get stranded.

Pilot whales are members of the dolphin family but are considered to behave more like whales. However, because of their social nature and the fact they travel together in large groups, mass strandings can occur.


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