Australian wildlife authorities are investigating the deaths of 14 young sperm whales that were found beached on an island off of the south-eastern coast.
The whales were discovered on Monday afternoon on King Island, part of the state of Tasmania in the Bass Strait between Melbourne and Tasmania’s northern coast, the state’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment said.
A government Marine Conservation Programme team travelled to the island on Tuesday and was conducting post-mortem tests on the whales to try to determine the cause of death.
Photos distributed by the department showed whales lying on their sides in shallow water on the rocky shore of the island.
Authorities plan to conduct an aerial survey to determine whether there are any other whales in the area.
The department said it is not unusual for sperm whales to be sighted in Tasmania and the area where they were discovered was within their normal range and habitat.
“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,” the Environment Department said.
Surfers and swimmers were warned to avoid the immediate area in case the corpses of the whales attract sharks.
Two years ago, about 470 long-finned pilot whales were found beached on sandbars off of Tasmania’s west coast in the largest mass stranding on record in Australia.
After a week-long effort, 111 were rescued but the rest died.
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