Sri Lanka trying to save 100 stranded pilot whales

People look at a dead pilot whale after being stranded on a beach in Sri Lanka, photo: Reuters/Dinuka Liyanawatte
People look at a dead pilot whale after being stranded on a beach in Sri Lanka, photo: Reuters/Dinuka Liyanawatte

Rescuers and volunteers are trying to save about 100 pilot whales stranded on Sri Lanka’s western coast on Monday. It’s the biggest-ever mass stranding in the country.

The short-finned pilot whales began beaching at Panadura, 25 kilometers (15 miles) south of Colombo, shortly before the sunset. Within an hour, around 100 pilot whales were stranded, local police chief Sanjaya Irasinghe told AFP.

“With the help of local residents, we are trying to push them back (into the ocean),” Irasinghe said. “But they keep getting washed ashore. We are getting help from the navy to rescue these whales.”

Sri Lanka’s Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) sent its officials to help with the rescue operation. They said it was the largest single pod of whales stranded in the South Asian country.

“It is very unusual for such a large number to reach our shores,” MEPA chief Dharshani Lahandapura told AFP, adding that the cause of the stranding was not known. “We think this is similar to the mass stranding in Tasmania in September.”

The beaching of 470 pilot whales in a remote harbor in Australia’s southern island state of Tasmania was the country’s largest-ever. Almost the animals died, despite the days-long rescue efforts.

Pilot whales, who can grow up to six meters (20 feet) long and weigh up to a tonne, are highly social.

The causes of mass strandings remain unknown despite scientists studying the phenomenon for decades.

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