Hundreds of whales wash up on beach as 200 die with rescuers racing to save them
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A mass stranding event in Australia has resulted in the deaths of more than 200 whales on a Tasmanian beach.
It took place in the Macquarie Harbour – also known as Hell's Gates – and claimed the lives of around 400 whales of the same species.
Rescuers are now working against the clock to save as many of the 35 surviving pilot whales before it's too late.
Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service regional operations manager Brendon Clark said: "Unfortunately, we do have a high mortality rate for this particular stranding – that's predominantly due to the exposed conditions out on Ocean Beach.
"The environmental conditions, the surf out there on the exposed west coast, is certainly taking its toll on the animals."
Despite the odds being stacked against them, around 50 experts and other relevant personnel are still attempting to save the stranded whales.
They explained that they began the operation by attempting to work out which whales had the best chance of surviving and prioritising them.
Clark said: "The primary focus this morning is on rescuing and releasing the surviving animals."
The few survivors 'squeaked' and 'growled' as they splashed around on the beach.
The whales are saved by being rolled onto large matts, which are then carried into trailers to take them back to the ocean.
Rescuers have the additional task of keeping the whales wet the entire time too.
But the team does have a mechanical hoist to help them transport the whales, making some of the difficult task a little easier.
Operations manager of the marine conservation program for Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania, Kris Carlyon, told The Advertiser: "We're really confident that it's going to help speed things up a bit and also to make sure we're managing fatigue.
"We have animals that are essentially high and dry on the sand. These animals may weigh as much as 2.5 tonnes. They're big and they're heavy."
While rescuers are doing everything in their power to save as many whales as possible, they've admitted that more will likely die.
Carlyon added: "I think it's inevitable that we may lose a few more of these animals."
The task has been described as a 'difficult' and a 'confronting' one for the rescuers because of the sheer number of dead animals.
Conservationists have now said that appropriate action needs to be taken to avoid a third mass stranding event at the Hell's Gate beach in the future.