whales found dead
25/11/2003 10:28 - (SA)
Hobart, Australia - More than 100 pilot whales and 10 dolphins
have died in a mysterious mass beaching on the coast of
Australia's island state of Tasmania, local officials said on
Tasmanian Environment Minister Bryan Green told parliament the
carcasses of the ocean mammals had been found on Monday by an
abalone diver on a remote peninsula off the state's southwest
coast called Point Hibbs.
Experts who flew to the site on Tuesday said they counted 110
long-finned pilot whales and 10 bottle-nosed dolphins, all
apparently dead for several days.
The mass beaching of whales has long mystified scientists, with
theories about the phenonoma ranging from diseases that upset
the mammals' internal navigation system to herd behaviour in
which large numbers of whales blindly follow a leader into
But David Pemberton, the curator of vertebrate zoology at the
Tasmanian Museum who spoke with scientists at the beaching site,
said the fact that both whales and dolphins were involved
implied they became stranded while fleeing an attacker or during
a "feeding frenzy".
"When it's a mixed stranding like this, you start to get
suspicious about external factors," Pemberton said.
He suggested the whales and dolphins had been involved in a
"frenetic feeding frenzy" that took them too close to
shore or had been driven to the beach by killer whales or other
Scientists from the state environment department and the museum
were investigating the incident, officials said.
"This type of event is always the cause of much sadness,"
Green told parliament.
Long-finned pilot whales are found in cold temperate and
While predominantly a deep ocean species, pilot whales will
enter coastal and shallow waters in search of food and are
regularly involved in beaching incidents, sometimes involving
hundreds of animals.