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Sri Lankan Navy, Villagers Save 120 Whales After Mass Beaching

People look at a dead pilot whale Tuesday on the beach in Panadura, Sri Lanka. Rescuers and volunteers raced to save more than 100 pilot whales stranded on Sri Lanka's western coast.
People look at a dead pilot whale Tuesday on the beach in Panadura, Sri Lanka. Rescuers and volunteers raced to save more than 100 pilot whales stranded on Sri Lanka's western coast.

A group of Sri Lankan rescuers have returned more than 100 whales to the sea after a mass beaching of the mammals.

A team made up of the Sri Lanka navy and coast guard and local residents worked overnight to save 100 to 120 stranded short-finned pilot whales on Panadura Beach, according to the country's navy. The beach is south of the capital, Colombo, on the island country's southwestern coast.

The group of stranded whales is believed to be the country's largest recorded beaching of the mammals, according to local officials.

Videos posted on social media late Monday showed the large animals lying on the sandy beach. Locals can be seen gathered around them as they tried to push the animals back into the sea.

The navy and coast guard teams worked with local police and volunteer lifeguards using watercraft throughout the night and early morning to pull the whales safely back to the sea, the navy said. Four whales could not be saved, however, and the Department of Wildlife Conservation is conducting further investigations into their deaths.

The whales are believed to have become beached after the group followed "a desperate whale that lost its course," the navy said.

In September, about 470 pilot whales were stranded in Tasmania. Only about 110 could be saved after days of rescue efforts, Agence-France Presse reported.

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