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Australian officials race to save hundreds of stranded pilot whales after dozens die

September 22, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Marine experts and government officials are racing to save hundreds of pilot whales after a mass stranding in Australia, with dozens of the animals already dead.

(CNN)Marine experts and government officials are racing to save hundreds of pilot whales after a mass stranding in Australia, with dozens of the animals already dead.

About 270 pilot whales are stranded in Strahan, a small town in Tasmania, an island off the southern coast of Australia.

With the clock ticking, they're forced to triage by starting with whales that have the best chance of success, said Carlyon.

First, rescuers are going to try to "refloat" the whales by "(shifting) them in water," Carlyon said -- and if that doesn't work, or if it causes the whales to behave erratically, they'll move onto another strategy.

But the current weather is keeping the whales wet and cool, which is "ideal," Carlyon said -- if conditions stay like this, the whales can survive a few more days.

It's not entirely clear what caused the whales to wash up on shore, though Carlyon added that there have been a few other mass strandings in similar locations.

Tasmania is the only Australian state where mass strandings of whales and dolphins occur on a regular basis, according to the state's Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment.

Pilot whales, sperm whales and bottlenose dolphins are the species most frequently stranded.

Whales have "very tight family bonds" so if one whale is stranded, others may hear its calls and follow, leading to an entire pod being beached, according to the department.

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