The Australian state of Tasmania has registered its largest election stranding ever after more were found stranded during a major rescue operation.
Since Monday, an estimated 470 pilot whales have been spotted stranded on Tasmania’s west coast.
Most of the 200 whales in the newly discovered group appeared to be dead, officials said on Wednesday.
They said rescuers competed to rescue animals still living in shallow water.
Although 25 whales from the first group were released on Tuesday, some had stranded again after being taken in by the tide, according to officials.
Rescue missions begin for mass whales off beaches outside Australia
“We are quite disappointed that the number has increased and [there’s an increase] in the number of whales that have died, “says Nik Deka from Tasmania’s Department of Primary Industries.
But he said rescuers hoped to be able to escort more whales out to sea on Wednesday.
A helicopter team saw the other group on Tuesday about 10 km from the first place at Macquarie Heads. It is suspected that they were part of the same pod.
“From the air, it did not look like a rescue was needed, but we are sending a boat to make an assessment,” Deka said.
At least 90 whales from the first group have died.
It is still unclear what drew the whales to the beach, but researchers say that pilot whales in particular have strong social ties.
The small whales are among the most common to be stranded. They can be up to 7 meters long and weigh up to three tons.
The Australian Antarctic Division said it was checking whether the stranding was also Australia’s largest on record.
“I would say it’s probably going to be the biggest … I can not imagine a stranding bigger than that,” Professor Peter Harrison, of Southern Cross University’s Whale Research Group, told the BBC.
Tasmania’s previous largest stranding was in 1935 with 294 humpback whales. Its last mass strike was in 2009 and involved about 200 pilot whales.
More than 80% of Australian election campaigns take place in Tasmania.