At least 90 pilot whales out of a group of 270 that remained stranded in Australia’s Tasmania have died, officials said Tuesday.
Rescuers managed to save 25 whales and returned them to the sea during an ongoing operation, reports AP. “We’ve rescued about 25 whales and escorted them out to sea and crews are continuing to work, so that number will increase before we get to the end of the day,” Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service Manager Nic Deka told reporters.
The whales were discovered Monday on a beach and two sand bars near the west coast town of Strahan. Sixty people have joined the rescue effort.
Wildlife biologist Kris Carlyon said progress would be slow. “We’ll take the animals with the best chance to start with and the ones that we are able to deal with,” he said.
About one third of the whales had died by Monday night and most were inaccessible by boat, Carlyon said. He also said that pilot whales are a robust species and the survivors have a chance of lasting several days if the weather stays cool.
Tasmania is prone to whale stranding but this is the largest mass stranding on Australia’s most southern state in years. Authorities do not know why the whales became stranded.