Australians try to save stranded whales (Lead)

March 2nd, 2009 - 1:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, March 2 (DPA) A volunteer army was Monday tending to around 54 whales that were still alive among a pod of 200 that became stranded on a beach on Tasmania’s King Island.
The 150 locals are trying to coax those still in good shape to return to the open water.

“Families, children, mums and dads, grandparents - all here helping out doing their bit under the guidance of a local parks ranger,” King Island council general manager Andrew Wardlaw told local radio.

The pilot whales were thought to have come ashore Sunday on King Island, which is halfway between the island state and the Australian mainland.

Parks and Wildlife Service spokesman Chris Arthur said six dolphins were also stranded at Naracoopa Beach.

“While there are animals alive, there is always hope,” he said. But he told of fears that more of the pod currently offshore could join their brethren on the beach.

“There are quite a lange number of animals still out at sea, just offshore, milling around,” he said.

Opinions differ on why whales become stranded. The thousands of hours put in by hundreds of nature lovers trying to re-float whales often end in disappointment when the creatures get too weak to be saved or return to the beach even after being re-floated.

Peter Mooney, general manager of the Parks and Wildlife Service in Tasmania, said whales often put their own survival at risk to stay with their pod.

“They are incredibly socially strong,” he told national broadcaster ABC. “One whale beaches and the others come in to be with that whale and we end up with the whole pod stranded. They just won’t leave other whales they think are in distress - even if it means their own death.”

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