Volunteers were working Sunday to save the few survivors among about 100 whales and dolphins stranded on a Tasmanian beach, hoping to them back out to sea.
More than 80 of the mammals were dead when a fisherman found them Saturday on King Island. Two whales and six dolphins were considered to be strong enough to attempt to refloat them.
Rescue efforts often break the hearts of those trying to save them as refloated whales often beach again at the same spot or nearby.
“Some of the members of the community were very, very upset after the incident,” Tasmania Parks and Wildlife spokeswoman Shelley Davison told national broadcaster ABC, adding that “whale beachings are very, very emotional things to go through for everyone who is involved.” King Island whale rescue group member Margaret Barnes told The Mercury newspaper that the stranding was hard on volunteers.
“(They) were screaming for their calves, which were dead. It was all pretty bad.” Three years ago more than 200 whales and dolphins came ashore on King Island, a common spot for beachings in Australia.
Opinions differ on why strandings happen.
Peter Mooney, general manager of the Parks and Wildlife Service in Tasmania, speaking after 2009’s beaching on King Island, said that whales and dolphins often put their own survival at risk to stay with their pod.
“They’re incredibly socially strong,” he said. “One whale beaches and the others come in to be with that whale and we end up with the whole pod stranded. They just won’t leave other whales they think are in distress, even if it means their own death.”