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Sri Lanka's soldiers and fishermen try to push back 11 stranded pilot whales into the deep water in the northwestern coast of Kudawa on February 11, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

KUDAWA, Sri Lanka: Eleven pilot whales were saved on Saturday after they became stranded near the shore on Sri Lanka’s west coast in the early hours, wildlife officials told AFP.

A navy team aided the rescue effort alongside local fishermen who raised the alarm when they spotted the pod after midnight near the resort village of Kudawa.

“There were 14 of them and three were dead on coming ashore,” wildlife officer Eranda Gamage told AFP.

“They had to be taken into the deeper seas to drop them there so that they would not come back to the shore. The navy took them in their boats and dropped them.”

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Image Credit: AFP

Pilot whales - which can grow up to six metres (20 feet) long and weigh a tonne - are highly social.

The causes of mass strandings remain unknown despite scientists studying the phenomenon for decades.

In November 2020, Sri Lankan rescuers managed to save 120 pilot whales in a gruelling overnight effort that also involved the country’s navy.

Three pilot whales and one dolphin died of injuries following the mass beaching on the country’s western coast at Panadura, south of the capital Colombo.