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Stranded pod of whales may have lost course – Marine Biologist

The pod of whales, which beached at Panadura, have been identified as ‘Short-Finned Pilots’, Marine Biologist cum Ocean Educator, Dr. Asha de Vos, said.

The pod is believed to have been stranded as a result of following a desperate whale that lost its course, she noted.

Six pilot whales and one dolphin died after more than 100 mammals beached at Panadura on Tuesday.

Wildlife Department Director-General Chandana Sooriyabandara said the Navy, fisher community, wildlife activists, coastguards and police helped in the task to push back the whales deeper into the ocean.

National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA) officials and other state marine life protection authorities also provided assistance.

According to the Navy, the mission was augmented by 30 naval personnel, an Inshore Patrol Craft, a group of 30 Coast Guard personnel, lifesaving boat, six naval personnel attached to the Rapid Response Relief and Rescue Unit, Kalutara with two lifesaving boats.

On the request of Commander of the Navy, Vice Admiral Nishantha Ulugetenne, jet skis given by a local water sports club were also used to pull the sea mammals deeper into the ocean.

Those who joined the rescue mission did everything within their power to manage the animals that were between 3-5.5m (10-18 feet), weighing 1000-3000 kilos. The animals were fatigued and stressed, they were splashing their tails around, which was risky for the people in the water, Dr. de Vos said.

“It was difficult for the men (who were also fatigued) to turn them upright against the crashing waves and to direct them into the surf and move them beyond their own height of water. If you’ve never been in this situation, please don’t be quick to judge,” she further said.

As I have explained on earlier occasions, whales breathe from their blowholes located at the top of their heads. The rescuers had to ensure the airways remained unblocked while trying to keep the animals upright, but it was hard. The waves kept tossing the animals and the people’, she noted.

A senior Department of Wildlife Conservation official said initial investigations suggested that the mammals were stranded due to sea currents or a change in their normal habits.

However, the Department also said that they had found the recent deaths on Olive Ridley Sea Turtles was due to foreign bodies entering their lungs.

“We fear that the recent oil spill may be one of the major reasons and there may be also some connections when it comes to pilot whales adopting an unusual routine,” an official said.

The Department had sent body samples and the report is expected in February 2021. The wildlife authorities will also conduct tests through veterinarians, the official noted.

Source : Sunday Island

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