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Rescuers struggle to free stranded whales and dolphins in Tasmania

March 3, 2009 |  6:47 am

Rescuers in Tasmania managed to save 48 pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins who'd become stranded on Naracoopa Beach. 

194 whales and dolphins were beached; only 54 whales and seven dolphins were still alive when the rescue effort began.  The Telegraph reports:

The whales were saved by trenches dug in the sand that allowed water to surround them, as volunteers doused the animals with water and draped them in wet fabric to keep cool.

Groups of volunteers used stretchers to lug dolphins into the shallows, and other officials used small boats and a jet ski to pull whales out to sea.

Rescuers were hopeful they would stay away from the shore.

"It's too early to say yet, but it's been a very, very positive day," Shelley Davison, a Parks and Wildlife spokeswoman, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Australian officials reported today that all but one of the rescued animals were now swimming in deep water. 

"It has been a great result. We have stabilised the whale which came back to the beach and are waiting for a change in the weather this afternoon to see if the animal is strong enough and the conditions are right for another rescue effort to be made,'' Parks and Wildlife senior ranger Chris Arthur told the Mercury

Whales and dolphins stranded in TasmaniaThe Mercury describes the rescue effort:

Among the volunteers was Jemma Blomhoff, who left her King Island home with four-month-old daughter Jordyn early yesterday, taking along friend Helen Morgan.

"When I heard, I grabbed some buckets. Jordyn was still in her pyjamas," said Ms Blomhoff, 22.

"I've never seen anything like it. It was awful, but it was good.

"They told us to find one [animal] and stick to it. Ours was a dolphin. We just tipped water over him continuously. When the water was on his face he would lift his face and open his blowhole as if he was really enjoying it.

"They took him to the water in the carrier and when they put him back, he went silly. They had to hold him so he could get some strength back. He was lifting his tail. It was excellent. So it had a happy ending."

Mass strandings of whales are not uncommon in Australia and New Zealand, for reasons not entirely clear to researchers.  One theory is a disturbance to the whales' echo-location systems, perhaps caused by human activity.

--Lindsay Barnett

Video: Telegraph
Photo: John Nievaart / European Pressphoto Agency

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