There's more bad news from Tasmania, Australia, where 380 whales have now died in one of the largest strandings ever recorded, reports the BBC. Hundreds of long-finned pilot whales have been found stranded on sand bars in a few areas off the island's west coast since Monday. An initial count of 270 was amended Tuesday after a helicopter spotted 200 more stranded whales near Macquarie Heads. About 50 had been saved by late Wednesday but that left only about 30 still living. Disposing of the carcasses—either by burying them nearby or dragging them out to sea—is now the focus, per the Guardian, though rescue efforts will continue "as long as there are live animals," Nic Deka, regional manager for Tasmania's Parks and Wildlife Service, tells the BBC.
Rescuers are using slings to "refloat" the whales, who are otherwise crushed by their own weight. The whales are then guided to deep water. Sadly, a strong tide apparently caused two freed whales to return to shore. "Geographically it's quite a challenging area. It's sort of inside an actual harbor," a fisherman assisting in the effort tells the BBC. He describes the whales as "remarkably calm … as if there's a bit of a sense of them knowing what we're trying to do." Wildlife biologist Kris Carlyon says the stranding is a natural event and "there's little we can do" to prevent it, per the Guardian. Researchers note the whales' sonar pulses may not pick up shorelines in shallow waters. Pilot whales also form close social bonds and some stay with their pod for life. That puts them at risk for following others into danger. (Read more mass strandings stories.)