230 whales beached in Tasmania

The pack ran aground on Ocean Beach, near the town of Strahan

by Lorenzo Ciotti
230 whales beached in Tasmania

About 230 whales are beached on Tasmania's west coast. The pack ran aground on Ocean Beach, near the town of Strahan. The poor animals are mostly pilot whales. According to experts and veterinarians who arrived, as well as the Tasmanian government authorities, at least half of the specimens are still alive.

Experts suspect higher temperatures may have affected ocean currents, displacing pilot whales' main food sources. Olaf Meynecke of Griffith University in Brisbane: “When this happens, the animals are not in the best physical condition, as they may be starved, so this can push them to take more risks and perhaps to move closer to the shore in search of different food sources.

" A local official urged the population not to reach the beaching site to avoid obstructing rescue: "Whales are a protected species and, even once they have died, it is a crime to interfere with a carcass."

About the pilot whale

The species has been heavily exploited in past centuries, but in recent times it is still observed quite numerous especially in two specific places.

In the southern hemisphere, associated with the Humboldt, Falkland and Benguela currents, but also in the North Atlantic. The dives it makes to feed itself, or rather to look for food, can last up to 10 minutes. Its breath exceeds one meter in height.

They can also be observed at a depth of 600 meters, but usually its dives go to a few tens of meters. It feeds mainly on cephalopods. Sometimes groups are observed practically stationary on the surface, so as to allow the boats to get closer.

Spyhopping, lobtailing and even breaching are often observed but this is almost only in the younger specimens. The pilot whale has a massive body with two long crescent-shaped pectoral fins. The globular head has a protruding forehead and ends with a very short rostrum. The skin is black, whitish in an area between the chest and belly. Its maximum dimensions reach 8.7 meters in length.