14 sperm whales found DEAD and drenched in blood after 'mystery' mass stranding

Tasmania's Department of Natural Resources and Environment said all 14 whales were young males and believed to be part of a single bachelor pod

14 sperm whales found DEAD and drenched in blood after 'mystery' mass stranding
At least 14 sperm whales have reportedly died after becoming stranded on King Island, off Tasmania's north-west coast (Getty Images/Creative)
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KING ISLAND, AUSTRALIA: In a shocking marine tragedy, at least 14 sperm whales have reportedly died after they got stranded on King Island, located off Tasmania's north-west coast, with experts still trying to figure out what went wrong.

The tragic sea mammals washed ashore and were discovered on Monday afternoon, September 19. Tasmania's Department of Natural Resources and Environment confirmed the next day that the carcasses were found at a local fishing spot. A rescue plane was scheduled to fly over the island to check for more beached whales. Wildlife scientist Vanessa Pirotta said what drove the whales towards the shore was "a complete mystery."

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WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT

“We simply do not know why this happens,” she told ABC. “That‘s the million-dollar question every time this kind of event happens. There could be something else that might have driven them to the area, we just don‘t know." According to Pirotta, the stranding could be either the result of a navigation error or the group following one whale heading towards the shore. "But the key thing here is that any stranding can contribute to science. Now authorities will undertake a necropsy, which is an animal autopsy, to try and understand what these animals might have been up to, but also to learn more about them," she added.

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However, the Department of Natural Resources and Environment said it wasn't unusual to spot sperm whales in the area. "It is not unusual for sperm whales to be sighted in Tasmania and the area the whales have stranded is within the normal range and habitat for sperm whales," a spokesperson for the department told Daily Mail Australia. "While further inquiries are yet to be carried out, it is possible the whales were part of the same bachelor pod – a group of younger male sperm whales associating together after leaving the maternal group."

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A group of wildlife biologists and veterinarians are heading to the island to probe the incident further. They will perform a necropsy and collect samples wherever possible. Meanwhile, Parks and Wildlife Service staff are also on-site monitoring the scene. Residents, however, have been advised to avoid the area. "Members of the public are reminded it is an offense to interfere with protected wildlife, including being in possession of parts of a dead whale, and are asked to keep their distance," a spokesperson said. Swimmers and surfers have also been warned that whale carcasses can attract sharks.

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Resident Svetlana Jacobson told ABC she heard about the stranding on Monday. "My family and I went and saw 14 whales along the beach," she told the outlet. "They lay there for quite a long time as they already had a specific smell and blood around." Marion Fogarty, another resident, said there had been strandings on the island in the past, but she wasn't aware of it happening in that location. "Every year or two we do get beachings, whether it's a sperm whale or different whales," she noted. 

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The tragedy comes nearly two years after hundreds of whales were washed up off Tasmania's west coast in the nation's biggest ever marine rescue mission. At least 470 long-finned pilot whales were found beached at Macquarie Harbour in September 2020.


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Only 111 whales could be saved after a week-long rescue effort, leaving authorities to dispose of more than 350 carcasses.

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