Australië, 23 maart 2009 – Volgens het Australische Department of Enviroment and Conservation, zijn er van de gestrande grienden, en geen kleine zwaardwalvissen zoals eerder gemeld, nog maar 17 in leven.
Community volunteers and Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) staff are continuing work to re-group the remaining surviving whales found early this morning in a mass whale and dolphin stranding in Hamelin Bay, 32 kms south-west of Margaret River.
The whales, thought to have been false killer whales, have been identified and confirmed as long-finned pilot whales by DEC marine mammal specialist Doug Coughran, when he arrived this afternoon. Both species are very similar in colouring and identification characteristics.
When found this morning there were 25 whales alive, since then a further eight have died.
DEC Incident Controller Greg Mair said currently there were around 100 community volunteers, Sea Search and Rescue officers and West Whales volunteers assisting DEC staff in rescue efforts for the 17 surviving whales.
“The main strategy is to re-group the animals, which are spread over five to six kms of beach, into one pod and hold them overnight in Hamelin Bay until day-break when they will be transported by truck to Flinders Bay for release,” he said.
“This method has been chosen to ensure the whales’ greatest chance of survival,” he said.
“Flinders Bay provides sheltered waters and is far enough away from the stranding site to reduce the risk of the whales re-stranding.
“Re-grouping and transportation will take considerable time considering the size of the animals, the spread in location and the health and well-being of the animals. Vets are on hand constantly monitoring the stranded whales.”
Mr Mair said DEC was working with the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River to identify possible burial sites for the dead whales.
He said a scientific team comprised of DEC and Bunbury Dolphin Discovery staff was collecting samples from the stranded dead whales for testing as part of research into causes behind whale standings.
Mr Mair praised the efforts of the community in rallying to help rescue the whales with more than 150 people registering as volunteers.
Long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas) – meaning globed-headed black – gained its name from its habit of piloting fishermen towards fish. The whales are brownish-grey to black. They have a distinct dorsal find and sickle-shaped flippers up to one-fifth of their body length. The animals grow to 6.5 m and calves are less than two- metres long at birth.
The species can dive to hundreds of metres to obtain food, mainly squid. Their lifespan is between 30 and 50 years.
They tend to strand both individually as well as in pods. Nineteen long-finned pilot whales stranded in Busselton in 2005. Of those, 13 were successfully returned to the ocean.