Rescuers kill beached whales as dying animals cry out to their family members

Australian rescuers have been forced to start killing some whales which remain beached after a huge mass stranding which has left 380 dead.

They are working round the clock to save the terrified creatures which are screaming out in fear and pain after becoming lodged in Tasmania four days ago.

"It is emotional," said rescuer Sam Thalmann.

"There are animals swimming around, they are vocalising. We can see the bonds and the pairings within them."

Volunteers managed to save 88 stricken pilot whales but now they are running out of time.

Tasmania's Parks and Wildlife Service manager Nic Deka said: “We still have a few more live animals that we think are going to be viable to move.

"There is a likelihood that we'll be continuing the rescue effort tomorrow… our focus has been on those that appear the most viable and have the most chance of success.”

Around 60 workers have been wading in and out of Macquarie Harbour surrounded by the heartbreaking cries of dying whales. The pilot whale is a particularly sociable animal and grow up to 20ft long.

The death toll is expected to keep rising as some of the desperate animals keep trying to reach the stranded pod and end up getting beached again.

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Volunteers were forced to shoot at least four creatures and expect to have to mercy kill more.

"Those four whales were euthanized earlier today," using firearms and specialist ammunition, said Tasmanian environment department marine biologist Kris Carlyon.

"We've got a few others that we are currently giving veterinary assessment."

"That's based purely on animal welfare grounds," he added.

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The workers are now wondering how to dispose of the rotting carcases of almost 400 whales which have already perished in the tragedy.

Mr Deka added: "Our preference is for disposal at sea. We're still taking expert advice about where exactly the drop-off point may be.”

It is feared their decomposing bodies will attract sharks and other predators if they are left where they are.

They could also spark a pollution crisis.

"The decomposition of such a large number of animals could actually affect oxygen levels in parts of the harbour, which could affect the marine life in those places," Mr Deka added.

Locals are devastated by the horror scenario unfolding in their harbour.

One resident said: “You could see that they were obviously suffering.

"On the beach they were still… puffing, flipping about and you couldn't really do much to help them."

Scientists are unsure why mass strandings happen but it could be because the animals get lost looking for food or missing pod members.

Marine biologist Mr Carlyon added: "We do step in and respond in these situations, but as far as being able to prevent these occurring in the future, there's really little that we can do.”

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