Eleven pilot whales were rescued on Saturday after being stranded in Sri Lanka. Three whales died on the shore.
A navy team assisted in the rescue effort with local fishermen who first spotted the pod after midnight near the village of Kudawa, located on the southern coast of Sri Lanka.
“There were fourteen of them, and three were dead when coming ashore,” wildlife officer Eranda Gamage told news agency AFP. “They had to be taken into the deeper seas to drop them there so they would not return to the shore. The navy took them in their boats and released them.”
Pilot whales have large, bulbous foreheads and short, stubby dorsal fins and are found in the North Atlantic, North Pacific, and Southern Ocean.
They can grow up to 20 feet in length and weigh up to 6 tons and inhabit deep waters near the coast and feed on a variety of prey, including squid and fish.
Pilot whales are highly social animals and are often found in large groups, or pods, that can number up to 100 individuals. These pods are highly structured and are composed of close-knit family units. They are known for their complex vocalizations and use a variety of sounds, including whistles, clicks, and pulsed calls to communicate with one another.
The marine animal face many threats, including hunting, entanglement in fishing gear, and pollution. They are also vulnerable to noise pollution and the effects of climate change.
There are several theories to why pilot whales strand themselves, including navigation errors, disorientation caused by underwater noises from boats or other environmental factors, and health issues such as disease or parasites.
In some cases, a single individual may strand himself, and this may then trigger a mass stranding as other individuals from the same pod follow the stranded individual and become beached themselves.
In November 2020, the navy helped rescue 120 pilot whales on western coast at Panadura in Sri Lanka.