Australian naturalists on Wednesday tried to find out why more than a dozen young male sperm whales died in a mass stranding on a remote beach in the state of Tasmania.
The 14 whales were discovered earlier this week on King Island, off the north coast of Tasmania.
Biologists and a veterinarian from the state conservation agency have traveled to the small island to investigate, with an aerial survey finding no other stranded whales.
The deaths of the young whales could be a case of “adversity,” wildlife biologist Kris Carlyon of the state conservation organization told local Mercury newspaper.
“The most common reason for strandings is an accident. They may be foraging close to shore, food may have been there and they may have been caught at low tide,” Carlyon said.
“That’s the theory at the moment.”
He said the whales were likely stranded on Sunday before being found dead on Monday.
Mass whale strandings were “rare but certainly not unexpected” in the region, Carlyon told The Mercury.
In 2020, Tasmania experienced the largest ever mass stranding in Australia when 470 whales became stranded in the western part of the state.
More than 300 pilot whales died during that stranding, despite the efforts of dozens of volunteers who toiled for days in Tasmania’s icy waters to free them.
The reason for mass strandings of whales remains mysterious, but some experts have speculated that the 2020 capsule may have been lost after feeding close to the shoreline or following one or two stray whales.
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