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Bottlenose dolphins © Christopher Swann

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A Happy Return To/For The Blue … !

On the day that the 64th annual IWC meeting starts in Panama there is some good news surrounding one of the ocean’s giants. Normally when an animal the size of a blue whale strands, people scratch their heads and say not much can be done to save it, but when exactly this happened in the state of Tamil Nadu, in the south-east of India, a small community rose to the challenge to save the whale.

After being initially spotted in shallow waters, over 40 local fishermen spent many long hours pushing and pulling the whale (with as much care as possible not to avoid injuries) back into deeper water only for it to restrand in shallow waters the next morning. Not to be defeated, they increased their numbers and started all over again, eventually watching as the leviathan of the deep swam to safety.

WDCS would like to congratulate all the individuals involved in the rescue effort; when push came to shove they took it literally … something this particular whale will be very grateful for!

This tale of rescue is even more poignant given the fact that blue whales face many threats the world over. Although commercial whaling on this species has halted, they still run the gauntlet of ship-strikes, entanglement in fishing nets and habitat destruction and their numbers are still worryingly low. Visit the WDCS Species Guide for more information on blue whales.

The below excerpt of the rescue is from the Hindu Online: –

In renewed rescue efforts by the community, the blue whale that was stranded in the Mannavaram swamp off Siruthalaikadu in Vedaranyam was set free into the deep sea, here on Sunday. This was after the day-long efforts to drift the whale away from the swamp and into the open waters stood foiled, as the whale retreated deeper into the swamp on Saturday night. The four-tonne, 25-feet long blue whale was initially found stranded at about dawn on Saturday in the Mannavaram swamp a few kilometres south west off Kodiakarai coast. The stranded whale was rescued manually from the swamp only to be let off into the open waters in the channel that branched off the lagoon. However, the mammal, bereft of any injuries, had later drifted deeper into the swamp in the night, rendering futile the day-long rescue operation staged by the forest department. However, just after dawn on Sunday, rescue operations were renewed —this time on the initiative of the community. In order to ensure that the whale did not retreat to the swamp, the mammal was hauled out slowly with ropes, drifted off the lagoon and led up to a depth of seven feet into the sea.
“The whale had moved about 800 meters further into the swamp and we had to ensure that the mammal was hauled out slowly with the use of ropes, in order to pull it farther into the sea,” said P.V.R. Vivek, a wild life photographer, who initiated the renewed efforts mobilising fishermen to the swamp.
The efforts paid off after the mammal swam back farther away from the brackish lagoon and into the deep sea. “We stood assured until we waited and watched the whale swim back into the sea for over a few hundred meters,” says Mr. Vivek.

About Nicola Hodgins

Policy Manager at WDC