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Stranded whales now back at sea off Australia

November 24, 2008 |  2:35 pm

This summer Australians -- and animal lovers worldwide -- were saddened by the plight of a baby humpback whale that, separated from its mother, desperately tried to suckle boats. Efforts to reunite the baby with its pod failed, and the whale was euthanized.

The latest whale news from Down Under has a happier ending.

The Associated Press reports that a group of whales rescued from an Australian beach has joined a larger pod in deep waters. Apparently, the whales have weathered their ordeal.

We'll let the AP take it from here:

Rescuers tagged five of eleven pilot whales they plucked from the beach in southern Tasmania state Sunday with satellite tracking devices so they could follow the animals’ progress. It was the first time tracking devices had been used in a whale rescue in Australia.

By Monday morning, the tagged whales had found a larger pod of whales and were swimming east toward migration routes known to be used by humpback whales, said wildlife officer David Pemberton.

"Not only have they survived being put back in the water after their traumatic ordeal but they’ve also found each other and are traveling with each other," said Pemberton, who is from Tasmania’s Department of Primary Industries and Water.

"Previously, rescue attempts have been something of a hope and a prayer," Pemberton said. "Now we know that the rescue efforts are well worth it, we have the evidence that tells us so."

Whales that become beached are sometimes known to return in confusion to dangerously shallow waters after being freed, dismaying rescuers. When the 64 stranded mothers and their young were found on Saturday, 52 had already died and one died overnight despite volunteers spending the night pouring water over the animal to keep it from overheating.

Dozens of volunteers and government wildlife officers used giant slings to hoist the 11 survivors into trucks and drive them to a deep-water beach in Tasmania. They were released Sunday afternoon, about 7.5 miles away on Tasmania’s northwest coast.

-- Steve Padilla

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