November 24, 2008

Surviving Whales Released After Mass Stranding

Australian wildlife rescuers announced Sunday that they effectively released a group of pilot whales back to the ocean following a large stranding of the mammals in Tasmania.

Chris Arthur, who led the rescue attempt, stated that 11 of the 64 animals discovered to be stranded on the island's north coast Saturday were freed after a strenuous endeavor that included moving them to another beach.

"We have successfully released 11 animals out to sea," Arthur said. "The last one went out less than 20 minutes ago."

Environmentalists noted that it was extraordinary to be able to save any whales after such an alarming mass stranding.

Even though the chances that the animals might strand themselves again can not be dismissed, he said, the expectations are that they will unite with other pilot whales in the ocean.

"We have had a reasonable outcome. They will form a small pod. We have given them the best chance they have got," said Arthur, an officer with the Tasmanian state parks and wildlife service.

The maternal pod of 64 long-finned pilot whales, about one-third of them adolescents, were discovered stranded on Saturday on the island's northwest coast, an area where several strandings have happened before.

Pilot whales are a type of smaller sized whales, characteristically up to about five meters in length. Their comparatively small stature could have aided rescuers in saving their lives, environmentalists noted.

Even though the majority of the pod could not be saved, a team of 65 people worked feverishly throughout most of Sunday to aide the 12 survivors. They were taken 17 kilometers by road in trailers to close by Godfrey's Beach to attempt to help them back to the sea. One whale passed away during the attempt.

Mass strandings of whales happen occasionally in Australia and New Zealand for rationale that is not completely comprehended. Suppositions include disorder of echo-location, perhaps by obstruction from sound created by human activities at sea, a spokesperson for the environmental group Greenpeace said.

While wildlife officials and volunteers have frequently attempted to save stranded whales, very few attempts have been victorious.

Some the stranded whales were tagged and aerial investigation is intended to ensure their progress.