Sri Lankan villagers and officials raced against time to save a pod of about 100 pilot whales that were beached off the country’s southwestern coast in an overnight operation. A video of villagers coming together despite curfew to help the animals is now being widely shared on social media.
Navy personnel, police teams and local volunteers rushed to rescue the whales at Panadura, but pushing the animals back into the ocean proved to be very difficult. Many of the whales they managed to push into the ocean were washed up again.
Asha de Vos, a Sri Lankan marine biologist, told Newsfirst that these whales need to be floated and carefully pushed back into the sea. She added that if the whales get washed up on to the beach, it reduces their chances of survival.
While de Vos said it’s not entirely clear why such incidents take place, it could happen given pilot whales move in groups and if one of them gets too close to the shore, the others also end up staying close to it.
Sri Lanka’s Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) confirmed that Panadura saw the largest single pod of whales beached on the island.
“It is very unusual for such a large number to reach our shores,” MEPA chief Dharshani Lahandapura told AFP, adding that the cause was not known.
— NewsWire 🇱🇰 (@NewsWireLK) November 2, 2020
Four of the whales died during the rescue operation, navy spokesman Captain Indika de Silva told Reuters.
A huge appreciation to all the local Fishermen, Navy, Coast Guard, Wild life, Environmental Groups personnel and everyone involved in the rescue mission of the stranded whales in Panadura. pic.twitter.com/UTYK5XZHOk
— Kanchana Wijesekera (@kanchana_wij) November 2, 2020
“I was fishing when I saw a dark patch and about 100 came ashore,” fisherman Upul Ranjith told Reuters.
“We’ve pushed as many as we can back to sea. I don’t know why this has happened. It’s never happened before. This is the first time I’ve seen it,” Ranjith said.
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