Unexplained death of dozens of whales on Indian Island

Dozens of whales beached themselves and died on North Andaman Island in the Bay of Bengal this week, the first time that such a large number of whales have died in the area.

Scientists are still trying to figure out why.

Individual whales have occasionally beached themselves in the Andamans, but never before in these numbers, said Samir Acharya, president of Society for Andaman and Nicobar Ecology, a nongovernmental organization based in Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar islands. “This happens once in a while, every year or every second year,” he said, but “the numbers this time are really large.”

A group of 41 short-finned pilot whales were found near Elizabeth Bay, on the west coast of North Andaman Island, by local fisherman on Oct 21, said Ajai Saxena, additional chief conservator of wildlife in Port Blair, in a telephone interview on Friday. The whales are four to six meters (about 12 to 18 feet) long each and as heavy as four tons, he said.

Officials who conducted a post-mortem investigation on one of the whales did not find any unnatural cause of death, Mr. Saxena said. The 41 whales are being buried in pits on the beach.

Whales migrate in a group, called a pod, to the cold waters of Antarctica because of an abundance of food, Mr. Acharya said, and migrate back to warmer waters during winter to mate and give birth. They use sonar for direction, emitting sounds and using their echos to judge the depth of the water and the direction they are traveling.

Signs of the Times http://www.sott.net/article/252833-Unexplained-death-of-dozens-of-whales-on-Indian-Island

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