Sri Lanka rescued 120 whales back to the Indian Ocean’s deep waters after they were found stranded on the shores of ‘Panadura’ that lies 25 km south of Colombo. The Sri Lanka Navy, coast guard, local volunteers, and several conservation experts rushed to the beach, where a group of whales was spotted stranded on the seashores.
On Monday afternoon, more than a hundred whales were sighted by local residents of Panadura. As the respective teams arrived with a few hours, they carried out the joint overnight operations using their manpower and expertise under the guidance of conservation experts. They managed to pull back nearly 120 stranded whales back into the deep waters of the sea. However, three whales and one dolphin were found dead, as stated by ‘Dharshani Lahandapura’, chairperson of the Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA). The MEPA authorities also claimed that these were all short-finned pilot whales and are generally found in the Indian, Atlantic, and Pacific Ocean.
This was an unprecedented event that witnessed a mass stranding of whales in Sri Lanka. After being stranded on the shore, the beached whales were trying hard to move back into deep waters. However, due to their heavy bodyweight and the absence of buoyancy of the water, it was like they were stuck on a treadmill” as depicted by marine biologist ‘Asha de Vos’, who shared the pictures and videos of the overnight operation done on Monday night to rescue the whales.
Rescue operations eventually saved whales
The marine biologist shared more updates about the rescue operation, stating that the local volunteers of Panadura played a significant role in the rescue mission, which involved battling the crashing high-intensity waves in the dark. She said that the animals were fatigued and stressed and were smashing their tails around, which made it more difficult for the rescue teams and locals to manage them. What may have looked like a wrestling match between the animals and rescue teams was actually the people trying to roll over the 1000-3000 kg animals into deep waters, which they finally accomplished.
The marine biologist also pointed out that the species of pilot whales have a tendency to be stranded for reasons that are not fully understood. Scientists believe this happens due to the highly social nature of these species. If one of them gets pushed to the beach while straying, the others have the tendency to follow that one. These animals, when lying on the beach for more than a few hours, can’t survive. She also mentioned the recent whale stranding event in Australia in September 2020, with around 470 whales beached. Unfortunately, many of them died.
Many videos and photos of the rescue operations of Monday night went viral on social media. Even the State Minister ‘Kanchana Wijesekara’, tweeted on the status of rescue operations to save the whales and dolphins on Panadura Beach.
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