In the worst whale stranding in recorded Australian history, about 380 long-finned pilot whales are confirmed dead and about 30 others are still stranded on an area called the Macquarie Heads on Tasmania's west coast. This stranding breaks Australia's previous record in 1996, when about 320 whales were stranded in western Australia. Tasmanian government officials say that about 50 were saved by late Wednesday, and the rescue effort will continue "as long as there are live animals". On the other hand, Nic Deka, the regional manager for Tasmania's Parks and Wildlife Service, said that efforts will soon shift into removing hundreds of carcasses along the coast, though the clean-up plan is still in discussion. In the past, carcasses have been buried on the shore or dragged out to the open seas.
On Monday, it was reported that about 270 whales were stranded, but a second report on Tuesday spotted another 200 whales stranded. Officials said that the second group of whales may have been washed in with the tide, but believed to be part of the same pod. Travelling in large close-knit communities replying on constant communications, these highly social whales are often observed being stranded in large groups. Over 80% of Australia whale strandings are reported in Tasmania with the Marquarie Heads area being a known hotspot.
Marine biologists say that it is not yet fully understood why whales become stranded en masse, though long-finned pilot whales are known to be prone to getting beached. A prominent theory of why the whales become stranded in the first place include being lured by fish to shore and becoming disoriented. Once stranded and without buoyancy, these pilot whales, often growing to weigh up to 3 tonnes, are slowly crushed to death by the sheer weight of their bodies.
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