SYDNEY, April 14, 2010 (AFP) - Wildlife experts have rescued 11 dolphins beached in a remote area of the Australian island of Tasmania, but around 30 animals died in the stranding, officials said Wednesday.
Locals reported that up to 50 bottlenose dolphins became stranded at the mouth of a river on the southern island's rugged west coast during torrential rain and strong winds over weekend.
Tasmania's Parks and Wildlife Service said Tuesday that 29 dolphins were estimated to have died in the beaching, but experts called to the Pieman River were able to return 12 survivors to the water.
With one more found dead on Wednesday, 11 are now believed to have made it to safety.
"It is certainly encouraging at this stage," said Chris Arthur, a spokesman for Tasmania's Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment.
"We do know that four of those released were last seen near the mouth of the river and were moving well so we are hopeful they have made their way back out into the ocean."
Arthur said an unknown number of dolphins remained in the river.
"We are hopeful that with weather conditions easing, the remaining dolphins in the river may be able to make their own way back out into the ocean," he said in a statement.
Officials have said that the dolphins may have entered the Pieman River to feed and then become trapped in a shallow part of the waterway during a storm.
Marine biologist David Pemberton said he had not seen a stranding of dolphins like this in almost three decades in the field.
"This number of dolphins and then the deaths involved, it's a strange one," he told ABC.
"That river is deep, dark, cold, it's flooding, rainforest down to the edges, log jams everywhere. It's a hard place to be an oceanic dolphin."