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12 Jan, 2016 17:48

Mystery as locals race to rescue 100+ beached whales found on Indian shoreline

Mystery as locals race to rescue 100+ beached whales found on Indian shoreline

Locals are alarmed after more than 100 short-finned pilot whales washed up on Indian shores, less than 400 miles from the southern city of Chennai. Fishermen and authorities are working together to slowly return each surviving animal to the water.

The operation on Tuesday morning had rescuers trying to resuscitate the whales, each of which weighs about a ton, with at least 36 of the animals being taken back one by one to the sea, the Hindustan Times reports. The total number animals washed ashore was put at 120. Rescue efforts are ongoing at this time.

Despite the rescue effort, at least 45 of the beached whales have been reported dead.

The whales began washing up on Monday night, according to the Tamil Nadu department of fisheries, forest and civil administration, which is now working with the police on the matter, the Hindustan Times was told by an official. They came ashore during low tide and could not return back to sea.

Time was of the essence, and local fishermen had to bring in their own resources to assist. At present there are 10 fishing boats and one mechanized vessel making roundtrips, one whale at a time.

It’s believed the animals could have been washed ashore due to some kind of deep underwater disturbance – like an earthquake or a volcano. Injury marks have been found on the dead whales, a forest department official who visited the site said.

It could also have to do with the loss of the animals’ group leaders. Short-finned pilot whales depend on leaders for guidance – much like an ant colony – and could easily lose their way without one. Presumably, a leader could have been absent from this group.

However, whales washing up on shore in such large numbers is not a common occurrence – the last time this happened in that area was in 1973, when 140 whales washed ashore, many of which died.

As the locals work against the clock to drag the mammals back to sea, they’re faced with another problem – the disoriented animals keep swimming back to shore in confusion. But according to officials, there will be no stopping the operation until all the whales are safely back in the ocean.