Fishermen from Tiruchendur – a small town at the southern tip of India – worked together to rescue dozens of whales that started beaching themselves on Monday afternoon.
Environmental officials were alerted by the whale rescuers from Tiruchendur, shortly after the event first occurred. About forty-five whales died, while approximately thirty-six were successfully pushed back into the water.
A total of at least one hundred short-finned pilot whales have been spotted so far along the ten-mile (about sixteen km) beach. Fishermen in the area worked overnight to rescue as many whales as they could.
Thiraviyam, a resident of Manapad (nearby town) reported that on Monday evening more than a dozen whales had stranded themselves on the shore. According to environmental officials, on Tuesday, many of the whales that had been rescues overnight, returned to the beach on their own. They looked quite disoriented, officials stated.
Rajan, one of the fishermen, said that on January 11, the whales reached the shore at around five p.m. He also noted that back in 1973, when he was a young boy, a similar phenomenon took place. That year, a total of 147 whales died in Tamil Nadu – the sixth most populous state in India and the eleventh largest state in India by area.
Currently, there is no answer as to how often the phenomenon of whales beaching themselves occurs, according to local environmental authorities. Marine biologists are also uncertain as to why the whales decided to come ashore.
Siddharth Chakravarty of Sea Shepherd Global, a marine conservation organization, said that human activities off the coast, like ship traffic, oil drilling, and sonic testing interfere with the navigation of whales. That often leads to mass stranding, such as the one from Tamil Nadu. Chakravarty also noted that whales are very social animals, which is why individual whales may sometimes be followed by an entire pod to shore. That can cause the stranding of the whole pod.
S.A. Raju, a local forest officer said that when they examined the whales, they found that some of them were still alive and struggling for their lives.
Short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) are a species of cetaceans in the genus Globicephala. Some of the whales’ characteristics include: a bulbous forehead, black or dark grey colour, a stocky body, long flippers, and a dorsal fin.
The short-finned whales are known to be extremely social. Although their behaviour is closer to that of the larger whales, short-finned whales are part of the oceanic dolphin family and have similar intelligence to bottlenose dolphins.
Image Source: dawn
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