Why More than 100 whales beached on the Panadura Coast, Sri Lanka

whales beached Panadura
whales beached Panadura

It is reported that more than 100 whales have been dumped on the Panadura beach. The whales have been stranded on the beach since this afternoon. It is reported that despite the curfew being imposed, some locals are making great efforts to repatriate the whales. Police, with the assistance of the Coast Guard, have launched an operation to rescue the whales.

Sri Lanka Police and the Sri Lanka Coast Guard launched an operation to send these whales back to the sea without causing any harm.

Asha de Vos, a Sri Lankan marine biologist said based on the images obtained the whales are believed to be pilot whales.

She said a similar event took place in Sampur several years ago, adding the largest such beaching of whales took place in Australia a month ago.

De Vos went on to note, biologists still do not understand why these events take place however say the beaching could occur as pilot whales move in groups and when one of them gets too close the shore, the others also stay close that particular whale.

She said these whales need to be floated and carefully pushed back into the sea adding if they come up on to the beach, it would be harmful to the survival of the pilot whales.

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. There are around 2,000 strandings each year worldwide, with most resulting in the death of the animal. Beachings are rare enough that they are not a significant threat to any species. The beaching of a single, live animal is usually the result of sickness or injury. Bad weather, old age, navigation errors, and hunting too close to shore also contribute to beachings.

Some whale and dolphin species are more prone to mass beachings. Toothed whales (Odontoceti) are the most commonly affected. Toothed whales include dolphins, porpoises, and all whales with teeth. 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.

Killer whales sometimes intentionally beach themselves to hunt for shoreline seals. They then wait for waves to help get back to sea. This practice is most commonly observed in pods around Argentina; it is believed that the habit is taught to younger killer whales by the older members of the pod. Killer whales very rarely become beached unintentionally.

The effects of sonar and other loud underwater noise

Some scientists believe sonar signals and other man-made loud underwater noises may contribute to beaching events. Low and mid-frequency active sonar is used by militaries to detect submarines, and for other acoustic exercises. These frequencies do not affect all species but can be deadly for some. Low sonar can cause haemorrhaging in animals exposed to the sonar, and others will beach themselves to escape the sound. Mid-frequency sonar most affects Cuvier’s beaked whales, causing decompression sickness, leading to tissue damage from gas bubble lesions. This sickness could happen because the sonar causes the whales to panic and surface too quickly to escape. Mass beachings of beaked whales almost exclusively occur alongside sonar testing.

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