Aussie whale res­cuers face gloomy task

Bangkok Post - - ASIA -

HO­BART: Af­ter days wad­ing through chilly wa­ters, sur­rounded by the pained cries of hun­dreds of stranded whales on Aus­tralia’s south coast, res­cuers faced the grim task yes­ter­day of dis­pos­ing of the car­casses.

In “one hell of an ef­fort”, a crew of around 100 con­ser­va­tion­ists and skilled vol­un­teers saved 94 of the 470 an­i­mals stranded on Tas­ma­nia’s rugged western seaboard — Aus­tralia’s largest-ever mass strand­ing, Tas­ma­nian en­vi­ron­ment depart­ment marine bi­ol­o­gist Kris Carlyon said.

“With this one, we are deal­ing with some­thing unique, we haven’t dealt with a strand­ing of this type be­fore,” Ms Carlyon said, adding the off­shore res­cue of such a large num­ber was par­tic­u­larly un­usual.

Tas­ma­nia Parks and Wildlife low­ered its es­ti­mate of the death toll from 380 to 350 yes­ter­day, and res­cuers re­mained hope­ful they could save up to 20 more of the crea­tures.

But the fo­cus was shift­ing to how to dis­pose of the car­casses as quickly as pos­si­ble over fears the de­com­pos­ing corpses could dam­age the en­vi­ron­ment in Mac­quarie Har­bour, drift into the paths of boats or at­tract sharks.

Sev­eral meth­ods were be­ing tri­alled for mov­ing the dead whales — in­clud­ing tow­ing them out to sea be­fore cut­ting them loose to sink in deeper wa­ter.

“They’re hard mo­ments, when there’s so much to go and it just feels de­feat­ing, it feels never-end­ing,” Wild­care vol­un­teer Josh Gourlay said. “But ... we’ve done re­ally well.”

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