Whale swims out of Australian river as 270 stranded

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CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA – A humpback whale has found its way back to the sea weeks after getting lost in a murky crocodile-infested river in northern Australia, while 270 pilot whales stranded in the south. There have been no whale sightings in the remote Alligator River in the Northern Territory’s World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, and no one can explain why at least three of the blue water mammals ventured so deep inland in a river with little visibility. .

In a more common occurrence, around 270 pilot whales were reported stranded on sandbanks off the island of Tasmania in southern Australia on Monday.

In northern Australia, the last of the humpback whale trio made their way through shallow canals at the mouth of the wide river and back into the Van Diemen Gulf over the week -end, said Kakadu National Park Director Feach Moyle.

“It made its way through at high tide and we are happy that it appears to be in good shape and not suffering from any harm,” Moyle said.

The humps follow the west coast of Australia in their annual migration from the tropics to Antarctica.

A helicopter crew spotted the whale on Sunday 9 kilometers (6 miles) outside the mouth of the river, said Carol Palmer, a Northern Territory government scientist on whales and dolphins.

“He or she looked really relaxed, was actually cleaning up all the mud himself, and we were so relieved that this whale actually got out of the East Alligator River,” Palmer said.

A group of boaters spotted the lost trio for the first time on September 2 more than 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the mouth of the river.

Two of the whales were missing before the arrival of wildlife authorities a week later.

“I hope they’re on their way or on their way to Antarctica, call their friends and catch up with them, because now is the time when all of our humpback whales in the Northern Territory waters begin to move towards Antarctica, ”Palmer said. “And knowing that these guys haven’t fed for months, months, and months, so they’d be pretty hungry and they make the last 5,000 kilometer (3,000 mile) trip to Antarctica.” , for sure. ”

It was a mystery why a whale strayed so far into a shallow river full of crocodiles. “He could’ve been chased by big sharks, or maybe it was just a wrong turn,” Palmer said.

Marine ecologist Jason Fowler was among sailors aboard a catamaran who first saw whales in a relatively deep river bend. By the time government scientists responded, the remaining whale had moved downstream on a stretch of the river just 4 meters (13 feet) deep.

“There was mud everywhere,” Fowler said.

Despite the name of the river, there are no alligators in Australia. It was named after the many crocodiles in the river by European explorers who apparently couldn’t tell the difference.

Authorities believed the whale was too big to be attacked by crocodiles, unless it became weak or sick.

In Tasmania, authorities plan to launch a mission early Tuesday to save pilot whales stranded on two sandbanks near the town of Strahan on the west coast.

About 25 of the whales have apparently already died after the large pod was reported blocked on Monday morning.

Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service director Nic Deka said marine specialists must conduct a thorough assessment before rescue efforts can begin.

“When we start to make an effort (Tuesday) morning, it will be with a rising tide,” he told reporters.

“It will be in our favor. We will aim to make the most of this window, ”he added.

Wildlife scientist Vanessa Pirotta said: “Seeing failure like this is not unusual. It just doesn’t happen every day. “

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