Scores of whales died after nearly 200 beached themselves in Australia but rescuers refloated some and were racing to save dozens of others, officials said today. A total of 192 pilot whales and several dolphins got stranded on an island off southern Australia yesterday and around 140 had died while 14 had been refloated, Tasmania's Parks and Wildlife Service said. "A 150-strong group of professionals and registered volunteers have worked throughout the high tide to refloat the animals," said spokesman Chris Arthur.
"We will continue until dark and start again at first light tomorrow". Mr Arthur told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation earlier he hoped many of the whales, stranded on King Island in the Bass Strait between the southern mainland of Australia and Tasmania, could be saved. "It's amazing, some will some die straight away, some will survive for days. These are fairly robust animals, pilot whales. We experienced that in the past.
"While they're alive there is a chance," he said. Mr Arthur added, however, there was concern for more whales which were close to shore. "There's quite a large number of animals still out at sea just off shore milling around". The latest beaching takes the total number of whales stranded around Tasmania in the past four months to nearly 400. More than 150 pilot whales died after beaching themselves on Tasmania's remote west coast in November and 48 sperm whales died in January on a sandbar off Perkins Island.
Tasmania, Australia's southern island state, experiences about 80 per cent of whale beachings in the country, a phenomenon so far unexplained by science. "This last summer has been a particularly demanding one, not only for the specialist Parks and Wildlife Service officers but also the volunteers and local communities," Mr Arthur said. It was not uncommon to have both whales and dolphins strand simultaneously, with a group of 97 long-finned whales and bottle-nosed dolphins beached on King Island on 28 November 2004. All of them died.