About 200 pilot dolphins stranded on the coast of Tasmania died

About 200 pilot dolphins, or pilot whales, have washed ashore and died on Tasmania’s rugged west coast, washed up by waves, Australian lifeguards said Thursday.

State Wildlife Service Operations Director Brendan Clark told reporters at the scene that only 35 of the approximately 230 cetaceans found on the beach the day before were still alive.

Aerial images show dozens of marine mammals scattered across a wide sandy beach that interacts with the cold waters of the Southern Ocean. Residents covered the surviving animals with blankets and tried to drown them in water.

Almost two years ago to the day, the area was the scene of another massive stranding, involving nearly 500 pilot dolphins. Despite the efforts of dozens of volunteers who struggled for days in Tasmania’s freezing waters to free the animals, more than 300 of them died.

Many hypotheses

The reasons for these large fibers are not fully understood. Researchers have suggested that they may be caused by groups of cetaceans straying after feeding too close to shore.

read more: Sonars are changing the behavior of whales

Because pilot whales are highly social animals, they may follow members of their group when they are in danger of straying. This sometimes happens when old, sick or injured animals swim ashore and other cetaceans in the group follow them and try to respond to distress signals from the trapped animals.

Other researchers believe that the gently sloping beaches—found in Tasmania—interfere with the pilot dolphins’ sonar, tricking them into believing they are further out to sea.

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A dozen sperm whales were found dead the previous day

The incident occurred hours after 14 young sperm whales were found dead on King Island, between Tasmania and the Australian mainland.

A “misadventure” could be the cause of the death of sperm whales, Chris Carlyon, a biologist with the island state’s conservation organization, raises with local newspaper the Mercury. He explains that this is “a very common cause of the Internet.” “They may be looking for food near the shore (…) they may have been caught at low tide”, says Chris Carlyon. “That’s the theory for now.”

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