The Australian state of Tasmania has recorded its biggest whale stranding on record, after more were found stranded in a major rescue effort.
Since Monday, around 470 pilot whales have been found stranded on the west coast of Tasmania.
Most of the 200 whales in the newly discovered group appear to be dead, officials said on Wednesday.
They said rescuers were racing to save any animals still alive in the shallow water.
Although 25 whales from the first group were released on Tuesday, some had stranded again after being brought back by the tide, officials said.
“We are quite disappointed that the number has increased and [there’s an increase] in the number of whales that have died, ”said Nik Deka of the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries.
However, he said rescuers hoped to escort more whales to sea on Wednesday.
A helicopter team spotted the second group on Tuesday about 10 km (6.5 miles) from the first site at Macquarie Heads. It is suspected that they were part of the same group.
“From the air, it didn’t seem like a rescue was needed, but we are sending a boat to do an assessment,” Deka said.
At least 90 whales from the first group died.
It is still unclear what drew the whales to shore, but scientists say pilot whales in particular have strong social ties.
Small whale species are some of the most common stranded species. They can be up to 7 m long and weigh up to three tonnes.
The Australian Antarctic Division said it was checking whether the grounding was also the largest on record in Australia.
“I would say it’s probably the biggest… I can’t think of a stranding bigger than that,” Professor Peter Harrison, of the Whale Research Group at Southern Cross University, told the BBC.
Tasmania’s previous largest stranding dates back to 1935 with 294 pilot whales. Its last massive stranding dates back to 2009 and involved around 200 pilot whales.
Over 80% of Australian whale strandings take place in Tasmania.