'No reason to intervene' with whales, says Sea World
JULY 6 UPDATE: The Sea World Rescue team, along with Marine Parks, is continuing to monitor the movements of a pod of killer whales on the western side of Fraser Island.
The pod of nine whales has remained in the same vicinity that they were in on Friday evening, and appear to be in a relaxed and sometimes playful state.
Sea World animal care supervisor Tacha Mulligan said that at this time there is no reason to intervene with the killer whales.
"The pod seems to be quite comfortable in their current location and we have even observed some members rolling on their backs and displaying tail lobs which are relaxed and playful behaviours," she said.
"At this point in time we have not seen any indication in the pod's behaviour that gives us cause for concern.
"Sea World and Marine Parks will continue to monitor the killer whales and intervention would only be required if it becomes clear they are not able to make their own way into open water."
A third dead killer whale was located on Friday evening and appears to have been dead for more than 24 hours.
"We are not optimistic that we will be able to understand how or why it died due to decomposition of the carcass," she said.
"The necropsy performed yesterday on an adult female that died on Wednesday showed it had no food it its stomach and had very little milk in its mammary glands even though it had a young calf with it.
"At this point in time whilst there are no indications of illness amongst the remaining nine whales, it gives us concern that three animals have died in such a short space of time and we will continue to monitor the Killer Whales behaviour."
AFTERNOON UPDATE: Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service rangers and marine professors are dissecting the killer dead whale on Coongul beach on Fraser Island.
They will transfer samples of the whale back to the mainland for analysis.
VMR Hervey Bay Commodore Tom Hudson said this was an extremely rare event.
"I've never seen whales like these orcas in the Sandy Strait since I've been here," he said.
"People have told me this only happens once every 30 years."
Mr Hudson told the Chronicle a pod of about nine orcas were heading north of Kingfisher Bay.
NOON UPDATE: It's possible the pod of killer whales has been disoriented and is fearful of sandbanks, Sea World director of marine sciences Trevor Long says.
"This environment of shallow waters and sandbanks is very strange for these whales and it is possible they have been disorientated as well as fearful of the sandbanks following the stranding event," he said.
Mr Long said the Sea World research and rescue team's objective was to see the pod safely into open water.
"We will continue to monitor the killer whales and we will only intervene if we feel they are not able to make their own way into open water," he said.
"We are in the best position and have the best people to monitor the whale's movements as we work with marine mammals everyday and have a deep understanding of their behaviours.
"We are also presently conducting a necropsy on one of the deceased whales in an attempt to understand what caused the stranding and if there are any major health concerns that may have contributed to the whale's death."
MORNING UPDATE: A pod of killer whales in shallow waters in the Great Sandy Strait has now left the area where some of them became stranded on Wednesday.
Sea World's director of marine sciences Trevor Long said they were heading in the direction of open water.
The whales are reported to have travelled about one third of the distance required to get them free of the shallow waters of the Great Sandy Strait.
The pod is travelling with the tide, which was described as being a good sign
A veterinary team from Sea World and rangers from the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service are continuing to follow the pod and monitor their movements.
QPWS acting regional director Sunshine and Fraser Coast Peter Wright said the pod was slowly moving north.
"The whales appear relaxed and in good condition," he said.
"QPWS rangers, accompanied by orca expert Dr Ingrid Visser, will be conducting an assessment of the whales throughout the day."
The carcass of a juvenile whale which was towed by a marine vessel on Friday morning in an effort to move the pod has been secured further north.
Kingfisher Bay Resort group communications manager Jodi Clark said the whales had been spotted in the distance off Kingfisher Bay's jetty on Fraser Island, swimming slowly north.
"At this early stage they are in the distance and can only be spotted with binoculars," she said.
EARLIER: A pod of killer whales remain in shallow waters near Deep Creek, despite the efforts of Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service rangers to move them north into deeper waters.
At first light on Friday, the team used a marine vessel to tow the carcass of a juvenile whale in an attempt to draw the whales north.
However the whales have remained near Fraser Island's Deep Creek, which is in the vicinity of Ungowa where some of the whales became stranded earlier in the week, and the QPWS are now investigating other ways to move the animals.
Five members of the pod became stranded on Sheridan Flats near Ungowa on Wednesday, while two other killer whales, an adult and a juvenile, were found dead on Bookar Island.
Rangers from the QPWS worked keep the killer whales in good condition until the high tide came in and freed the whales from the sand bank.