A 15-metre (47ft) blue whale was rescued last week after it stranded along India's Konkan Coast. Wildlife officials were notified by a group of local fishermen, who found the huge marine mammal struggling in shallow water.

Judging by the animal's emaciated appearance, it's likely the giant had been unable to feed for some time. Whether or not it survived after swimming back out to sea remains a mystery, but regional chief conservator N Vasudevan is optimistic. 

"The whale was stranded along the shoreline during low tide on Thursday or Friday," he said in an official statement. "Four forest officials led the rescue operation along with local NGOs and fishermen. And the whale was pulled into [deeper water] by Sunday afternoon."  

The animal was found near the Jaitapur nuclear power plant, but contrary to comments on social media, radiation is not suspected to have played any part in this stranding. It's possible that injury, illness or an internal parasite affected the whale's ability to feed, and the animal struggled to naviagte in this weakened state.

It took 50 people, two boats and eight tough hours of pulling to get the job done. "After the massive rescue operation, we saw the whale speed its way back into the deep sea," added team member BR Patil. 

At an estimated 20 tonnes, this is the largest rescued marine mammal in India's history, a point of pride for everyone involved. Spotters will remain in the area during the coming week, and wildlife officials urge anyone who encounters the whale to report the sighting.  

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