A 47-feet-long blue whale, the largest mammal in the world, was rescued after it was beached near village Madban, close to Jaitapur nuclear power plant in Ratnagiri district on Sunday morning.
Estimated to weigh around 20 tonnes, the whale was beached for over two days. Local fishermen spotted the mammal on Saturday evening and informed forest officers. On Sunday morning, two boats with 50 personnel carried out the rescue operation over eight hours by pulling the mammal into the sea with the help of ropes during high tide.
“Four forest officials led the rescue operation along with local NGOs and fishermen, and the whale was pulled into deep sea by Sunday afternoon,” said N Vasudevan, chief conservator of forest, state mangrove cell. “The whale was stranded along the shoreline during low tide on Thursday or Friday. We can only assume this because the animal was out of the water when it was found and its ribs were visible.”
BR Patil, range forest officer, Ratnagiri said, “The animal could have suffered an injury or an internal parasitic infection due to which it lost its navigation abilities and moved closer to the shore. However, after the massive rescue operation, we saw the whale speed its way back into the deep sea.”
Vasudevan added that this was one of the biggest rescues in India. “After the beaching and death of a whale at Juhu, Mumbai and the safe rescue earlier this year from Ratnagiri itself, the sheer size of the mammal makes this the biggest rescue of beached mammal in history.”
The blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) falls under the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1986.
“Being marine mammals, large whales are not designed to support their weight on land and the body crushes itself under its own weight,” said Mihir Sule, member of Konkan Cetacean Research Team.
Previous whale rescues in Maharashtra
In February this year, a 40-foot-long blue whale was rescued with the help of two boats in a nine-hour long rescue operation near Daboli, Ratnagiri, which was the first ever successful rescue operation carried out along the coast of Maharashtra for the largest mammal in the world. A 20 member team had rescued the mammal with the help of two boats.
The carcass of a 40-foot-long male Bryde’s whale washed up at Juhu beach, near Juhu Tara Road, on January 29. The whale was beached for 17 hours and could not be rescued. The carcass of the whale was burnt and buried at Juhu beach after the rescue operation failed.
In August last year, a 42-foot-long live blue whale had washed ashore and beached at Alibaug. Several attempts made by the forest department and local fishermen from the area to push the whale back into the sea went in vain and the whale died after collapsing on its own body weight a few hours after beaching. The rescue operation went on for 18 hours.