PANADURA, Sri Lanka — Volunteers in Sri Lanka defied the ongoing COVID-19 second wave to join a mammoth overnight rescue effort to push more than 1o0 stranded pilot whales back into the sea. At least five whales were reported to have died despite the efforts. The whales beached in the southwestern town of Panadura, about 30 kilometers (20 miles) from Colombo, on Nov. 2. Local fishers first noticed the unusual scene at around 1:30 p.m. “They first appeared as a dark patch in the horizon and kept on moving toward the shore like a giant wave,” said fisherman Upul Ranjith. “We tried to push them back to the sea, but they kept returning to the beach as if they wished to commit suicide.” The villagers alerted police, and soon 28 personnel from the area coast guard station had joined the rescue operation, along with dozens of volunteers. But because of lockdown measures in force in the area, volunteers, scientists and environmentalists had to first obtain curfew passes to join the mammoth rescue mission. The rescuers trying to pull a beached pilot whale under the headlights of jeeps. Image courtesy of Asha de Vos. A community effort Asha de Vos, a marine mammal expert at the conservation research and outreach NGO Oceanswell, identified the stranded whales as short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus), which are known to strand in large numbers frequently. When de Vos reached Panadura that evening, the rescuers had managed to push back some of the stranded whales into…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer