Sri Lankan volunteers took on a rescue mission for a school of over 100 short-finned pilot whales after they began beaching in Panadura, a city that is 15 miles (25 km) south of the capital Colombo on Monday. After the rescue team started pushing back short-finned pilot whales into the water, Sri Lanka Navy also joined in.
The mission turned out to be a success as the team has managed to push back 120 whales into the water while 2 animals died of injuries that had resulted from beaching.
Over 100 whales on the beach
Locals first noticed the short-finned pilot whales appearing on the shore in the afternoon on Monday and decided to push the animals back into the ocean, in an attempt to try and save their lives. Volunteers and the police force had been working with over 100 whales when they decided to ask the Navy for help.
The rescue team worked side by side through the night with the locals, residents, lifeguards, and navy officials.
A navy statement that was published following the incident reads: "On the request of Commander of the Navy, Vice Admiral Nishantha Ulugetenne, Jet skis provided by a local water sports club were utilized to pull the whales back into the ocean throughout the day and night", per the CNN.
No apparent reason for whale stranding
Sri Lanka's national Marine Environment Protection Authority (Mepa) officials, who had also been involved in the rescue operation, stated that it was the largest single pod of whales stranded in the region.
Dharshani Lahandapura, chief of Mepa has said "It is very unusual for such a large number to reach our shores. We think this is similar to the mass stranding in Tasmania in September," per The Guardian.
This incident is thought to be linked to the massive whale stranding in Tasmania last month, which had resulted in almost 500 pilot whale deaths with only 110 of them being rescued.
Pilot whales are known to be highly social animals and they tend to travel in schools. The reason why they have started to strand themselves on beaches puzzles researchers.