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NEW DELHI (AP) — More than 80 whales have washed ashore on India’s southern coast, officials said Tuesday.

The short-finned pilot whales began washing up on beaches Monday evening, said M. Ravi Kumar, the top government official in the southeastern port town of Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu state.

Rescuers took at least 36 of the mammals back to sea, but they appeared to be disoriented and some found their way back to the beach, Kumar said.

Short-finned pilot whales travel in groups or pods, and the absence of a leader confuses the group, he said.

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Local officials have asked experts from a nearby marine park to help them assess why the whales are washing up ashore and to help return them to the ocean as quickly as possible.

Local records show that the last time whales washed up on the beaches of Tuticorin in large numbers was in 1973, Kumar said.