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Desperate bid to save the whales

RESCUERS were yesterday desperately working to save dozens of whales and several dolphins which had become stranded on a beach on an island near Tasmania, the fourth beaching incident in recent months.

The 194 pilot whales and half a dozen bottlenose dolphins became stranded on Naracoopa Beach on King Island on Sunday.

Strandings happen periodically in Tasmania as whales go by during their migration to and from Antarctic waters, but scientists do not know why it happens.

It is unusual, however, for whales and dolphins to become stranded together.

Chris Arthur of Tasmania's Parks and Wildlife Service said that 54 whales and seven dolphins were still alive.

"It's amazing, some die straight away, some will survive for days," he said.

"These are fairly robust animals, pilot whales. We experienced that in the past. While they're alive there is a chance."

Rescuers were keeping the animals wet and trying to determine the most effective way to move them out to open water.

More than 100 King Island residents had also volunteered to help the efforts.

Arthur was optimistic about their chances but also expressed concern about a number of other whales just off shore.

It was not clear why the animals had beached on the island, halfway between Tasmania and mainland Australia.

The Examiner, a Tasmanian newspaper, reported that the animals were caught by a very low tide.

In January, 45 sperm whales died after becoming stranded on a remote Tasmanian sandbar, even though rescuers worked for days to keep them cool and wet as they tried to move them back to the open water.

Last November, 150 long-finned pilot whales died after beaching on a rocky coastline in Tasmania.

A week earlier, rescuers saved 11 pilot whales among a pod of 60 that had beached on the island state.


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