Of the estimated 470 pilot whales stranded in western Tasmania, Australia, 400 have died despite intense rescue efforts. According to a recent report from the BBC, 50 have been successfully rescued and roughly 30 are still in the process of being saved.
About 200 troubled whales were spotted on Monday, and rescue efforts started as soon as possible, saving 25 animals, but 270 more whales were spotted the next day, intensifying the situation and making the work of the 60 rescue workers much more difficult.
To rescue the animals, the workers use slings to carry the whale off the sand into deep waters. Each pilot whale can measure up to 25 feet and weigh three tons.
If the animals stay too long in shallow waters or on the beach, they exhaust themselves, panic, and drown.
It remains unknown why the pilot whales got stranded; they could have become disoriented by sonar or underwater earthquakes, followed a sick leader, or attempted to hunt in shallow water, explained Dr. Mike Double, leader of the Australian Marine Mammal Centre, to The New York Times.
Tasmania is an infamous spot for whale stranding, but this tragic event is the largest in Australia’s history.