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Nearly 200 whales die after being stranded on a Tasmanian beach

Tasmanian officials said Thursday that nearly 200 whales died after becoming stranded on a beach. File Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/8887bf77b8cc8f4d361db5b088f992f1/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Tasmanian officials said Thursday that nearly 200 whales died after becoming stranded on a beach. File Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 22 (UPI) -- Tasmanian officials said Thursday that most of the 230 whales that were found stranded on a beach have died.

Most of the whales appear to be pilot whales that became stranded in the Macquarie Harbour on Wednesday. Officials from Tasmania's Department of Natural Resources and Environment said only 35 had survived after the agency performed rescue operations.

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"While further inquiries are yet to be carried out, it is possible the whales were part of the same bachelor pod -- a group of younger male sperm whales associating together after leaving the maternal group," the Environment Department said.

The Department of Natural Resources and Environment said rescuers were deployed to the area Wednesday with whale rescue gear to work alongside Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service Staff to save the whales.

The latest incident comes after a separate mass stranding in Northern Tasmania on Monday, where 14 young sperm whales were found dead on King Island. Macquarie Harbor has experienced this before. In September 2020, nearly 500 pilot whales became stranded in the harbor. More than 380 of the whales ended up dying.

Wildlife scientist Vanessa Pirotta told the BBC the similarities between the stranding and the last one -- same species, same location, same time of year -- are "unusual" and concerning.

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The whales may have "misnavigated", followed a sick or disoriented leader, or been startled into shallower waters, she said.

Pirotta also suggested that climate change could have an impact as well, although the main reasons behind the strandings are still a mystery.

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