Marine conservation experts were rushing to the Australian state of Tasmania on Wednesday to try and rescue a pod of about 230 whales stranded on the west coast, with officials fearing half of them may have already died.
The animals, which appear to be pilot whales, are stranded on Ocean Beach, the Tasmanian department of natural resources and environment said in a statement.
Marine wildlife experts will assess the scene to plan a response, the statement said.
It appears about half of the animals are alive, it added.
“(The) stranding response in this area is complex. If it is determined there is a need for help from the general public, a request will be made through various avenues,” it added.
The stranding comes just days after more than a dozen young male sperm whales died in a mass stranding in Tasmania.
The state was also the scene of the biggest beaching in Australia’s modern history two years ago, involving nearly 500 whales. Authorities managed to rescue about 100 of them.
Neighbouring New Zealand has the world’s highest stranding rate of dolphins and whales, with hundreds of the mammals beached on its shores each year. But the reason why they get trapped on beaches remains a mystery.