Australia to dispose of 400 dead stranded whales

One of the luckier beached whales is towed out to sea.

But Australian officials were turning on Thursday (September 24) to the grim task of disposing of almost 400 carcasses of the whales that didn't make it, after one of the world's worst mass-strandings.

They were still hoping to rescue the few remaining survivors on Thursday, and have managed to free almost 90 of the long-finned pilot whales beached off Australia's remote southern coast.

Most have reached deeper water, but four had to be euthanized, and there are fears some might swim back to shore when the tide turns.

"I think beyond the next 24 hours any remaining animals that are alive will be less viable."

The clock is ticking for the rest, still floundering in shallow water on a wide sandbank four days after the 470-strong pod was first spotted off the island state of Tasmania.

And disposing of the dead whales is no easy task - even aside from the emotional toll the work is taking on the rescue team.

Marine biologist Vanessa Pirotta.

"Dealing with over 400 dead whales is a real problem. There are a number of things that they can do, for example, they can tow them out to sea but that would have to be very far out so we don't ensure that the bodies restrand. You could leave the bodies there to decompose however that does present a bit of a warning for swimmers in the area not to hop in the water because it could attract sharks which is all part of the natural ecosystem obviously. Or another option could be after taking genetic samples or other biological samples to remove the carcasses and bury them inland away from the scene."

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