Colombo, Nov 3 (efe-epa).- Around 120 short-finned pilot whales were successfully rescued Tuesday in a large scale rescue operation by the Sri Lankan authorities and hundreds of volunteers, who managed to push back the stranded aquatic mammals into the deep sea.
A large number of whales were on Monday found beached on the Panadaura beach on Sri Lanka’s western coast, around 30 kilometers (19 miles) south of Colombo, causing alarm among conservationists.
“We were able to save these animals because everyone acted on time. The operation was a success,” Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) spokesman Indika de Silva told EFE.
At least four whales died of possible internal organ injuries, officials say, as part of what is believed to have been Sri Lanka’s biggest mass beaching of whales.
Despite the stringent restrictions in place due to the Covid-19 crisis, hundreds of volunteers joined the rescue operation led by the SLN and the Coast Guard.
Later, police were deployed near the spot to prevent people from crowding in an area that has witnessed a spike in the number of coronavirus cases.
“It was not an easy task. The waves were rough and it was hard to push the whales back into the deep seas,” Madhuka Sandun, a 32-year-old resident of Panadura, told EFE.
He said that almost all the whales they came across were steady and breathing well. And once they were directed into safety, the mammals quickly swam towards the deep seas.
“This is a brand-new experience for me. We did everything we can to save these animals,” he stressed.
Marine biologist Asha de Vos told EFE said the whales could have lost their way in the seas before ending on the Panadura shores.
As whales travel in large families, sometimes when one member gets pushed towards the shore by the waves the others too end up heading in the same direction.
In a press release SLN said that the beaching was “unfortunate” and caused “as a result of the pod following a desperate whale that lost its course.”
Pradeep Kumara, the general manager of the Marine Environment Protection Authority, had told EFE on Monday that the pilot whales could have dived deep after being affected by sonar from a ship, and subsequently lost their way.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s Department of Wildlife Conservation is currently conducting further investigations into the four dead whales in a bid to ascertain how they died.
Sri Lankan waters are home to a sizable number of pilot whales, which are a major tourist attraction in a country that depends on tourism for a large part of its foreign currency revenue. EFE-EPA