Sri Lanka sees its largest stranding yet, dozens rush to the rescue of 120 pilot whalesWed 04 Nov 2020
Sri Lanka has saved some 120 pilot whales in a gruelling overnight rescue involving the navy, officials said Tuesday, after the island nation’s biggest stranding.
Three pilot whales and one dolphin died of injuries following the mass beaching on Monday on the country’s western coast at Panadura some 25 kilometres (15 miles) south of the capital Colombo.
A handful of whales had started beaching in the early afternoon and their numbers swelled to more than 100 by dusk, overwhelming local volunteers.
The navy stepped in to lend their aid and worked through the night to rescue the marine life. The coastguard, as well as dozen of volunteers, were eventually able to move the other mammals into deeper waters with the aid of small patrol craft by dawn on Tuesday.
Volunteers had come forward to help with the rescue despite the region being under a days-long lockdown to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Pilot whales — which can grow up to six metres (20 feet) long and weigh a tonne — are highly social.
The causes of mass strandings remain unknown despite scientists studying the phenomenon for decades.
The wildlife department’s chief veterinarian Tharaka Prasad told AFP autopsies were carried out on the dead whales and officials were “satisfied they were disoriented”.
He hailed the rescue as one of the most successful in the world.
Authorities had braced for mass deaths, after some 360 out of 470 pilot whales that beached in a remote harbour in Australia’s southern island state of Tasmania in September were not able to be saved.
Sri Lanka’s Marine Environment Protection Authority had said Monday that the Panadura stranding was the South Asian country’s largest.
The last mass beaching in Sri Lanka was in June 2017 when 20 pilot whales were stranded at a beach in the coastal town of Sampur near Trincomalee harbour in the country’s northeast. All were saved.
[Sourced from Agencies]