The Sri Lanka Navy and other groups rescued more than 100 short-finned pilot whales Tuesday after the whales beached themselves on the nation’s southwestern coastline.
The pod of pilot whales washed ashore at Panadura Beach, about 25 kilometers south of Colombo. The navy, Sri Lanka coast guard lifesaving teams, police lifesavers, volunteers, lifeguards and residents took part in the rescue mission.
Some villagers defied a coronavirus curfew to join the navy and coast guard, wading into the breaking surf to push the small whales back into the water. Jet skis provided by a local water sports club also were used to pull the whales back into the ocean.
The rescue teams managed to move at least 100 whales back into the ocean. At least two injured whales had already died and were buried.
The French News Agency reports Sri Lanka's Marine Environment Protection Authority ((MEPA)) confirmed the stranding was the largest of its kind in the south Asian country.
Officials were prepared for mass deaths as seen in Australia’s island state of Tasmania in September when about 470 pilot whales were stranded and only about 110 could be saved after days of rescue efforts. It was one of the largest ever such mass strandings.
Pilot whales — actually a large species of dolphin that can grow up to six meters long and weigh a ton — are highly social. The causes of mass strandings remain unknown, despite decades of study by scientists. Some believe the extreme social nature of the species will bring the entire pod of whales to the assistance of a single whale in trouble.