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More than 100 beached whales saved off Sri Lanka

Topics Covered: Biodiversity and conservation related issues.

More than 100 beached whales saved off Sri Lanka:


Context:

More than 100 beached pilot whales saved off Sri Lanka.

  • The rescue was conducted by the navy, with help from environmental protection officers, police, and local residents.

Why do whales beach themselves?

Cetacean stranding, more commonly referred to as beaching, refers to the phenomenon of dolphins and whales stranding themselves on beaches.

Whale beachings are not uncommon. Scientists say the reason is often unknown but they have a range of theories, including:

  • Changes in water temperature.
  • Irregularities in whales’ echolocation.
  • Geomagnetic disturbances.
  • Errors made in navigation.
  • Hunting too close to shore.
  • Sonar interference.
  • Inclement weather.

Why mass standings happen?

It is more common for these cetaceans to live in large groups with intricate social systems. If one member of the group is sick or in trouble, its distress calls can cause the other members to follow it to the beach, resulting in a mass stranding.

  • Highly social mammals, pilot whales are particularly known for stranding in groups because they travel in large, close-knit communities which rely on constant communication.

Recent instances:

  1. In September, several hundred whales died on the coast of Tasmania in Australia in one of the country’s biggest stranding on record and one of the largest in the world.
  2. The largest mass stranding in modern recorded history was 1,000 whales on the shores of the Chatham Islands, a New Zealand territory in the Pacific Ocean in 1918.

About Pilot Whales:

  • Pilot whales are so named because it was once believed that each observed group was navigated by a pilot or leader.
  • There are two species of pilot whales: Short finned pilot whales, which are mainly found in tropical and warm-temperate regions, and long-finned pilot whales, which inhabit colder waters.
  • Both species are designated as Data Deficient on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

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Sources: the Hindu.