- 45 whales have died after they were washed up off the coast of Tamil Nadu
- Rescuers and local fishermen have been trying to save the whales
- As many as 80 short-finned pilot whales have been stranded near Tiruchendur beach since last night
At least 45 whales have died after mysteriously being washed up on to a beach off the coast of Tamil Nadu, India.
Officials have confirmed that as many as 80 short-finned pilot whales had become stranded on the sand without any clear reason behind the spate of beached animals.
Rescuers have managed to save 36 of the mammals, who appear to be struggling to find their way back in the sea.
Tuticorin government official Ravi Kumar said today that the whales began to be washed up on beaches late last night
Tuticorin government official Ravi Kumar said today that the whales began to be washed up on beaches late last night.
Video footage has emerged of the animals lying on the sand, wriggling as they strength weakens without fresh water.
Mr Kumar said that officials had rescued and taken at least 36 of the mammals back to sea, but that they appeared to be disoriented, with some finding their way back to the beach.
Local records show that the last time whales washed up on the beaches of Tuticorin in large numbers was in 1973 when 147 whales died, Kumar said.
Whale expert Kumaran Sathasivam told the BBC that it is difficult to rescue stranded whales because they need to be returned to the sea at the same time.
‘Otherwise, they will return to be with the whale that is in distress. The whales emanate a sound that is not audible to human beings and that makes them return to the shore.
‘Also, because of their weight they are not able to get back into the water and their bodies gets overheated, and they die on the shore.
‘You need to constantly pour water on them because their bodies are covered in a layer of fat,’ he said.
Local fishermen and rescue volunteers have managed to drag some of the whales back into the sea but the animals keep washing up on the beach.
Mr Kumar said that short-finned pilot whales travel in groups or pods, and that the absence of a leader confuses the group.
‘This is an unusual thing…an unusual mortality incident, we have to find out the reason,’ Marine Scientist Velumani at the fisheries department told One India.
Short-finned pilot whales are well known for being sociable creatures, who rarely swim alone.
It is possible the whales are from one large pod, which became disoriented and ended up being unable to escape the shallows of the water.
Several of the short-finned whales lie in the shallows of the water, desperately clinging on for life