Friday, August 22, 2008


Starving baby whale has been euthanased

August 22, 2008 - 5:40PM

The "harrowing" decision by wildlife authorities to euthanase an abandoned humpback whale calf in a Sydney waterway has prompted an angry community reaction.

The injured mammal - affectionately called Colin and then renamed Colette when identified as a female - was put down by veterinarians on Friday morning after being discovered in shallow waters north of Sydney earlier this week.

The baby whale was found motherless and starving on Sunday in The Basin, inside Sydney's Pittwater, nuzzling yachts in search of her missing mum.

She returned again on Tuesday after having been lured out to sea and authorities opted against making another attempt to shepherd the 4.5-metre calf back into open waters.

National Parks and Wildlife Service NSW (NPWS) decided to put down the starving animal after veterinary advice from Taronga Zoo and Sea World, and in consultation with two animal welfare groups.

NPWS spokesman John Dengate said killing the large mammal had been "distressing and harrowing", but was the "best possible result" under the circumstances.

"That was the best way it could have been done," he told reporters, adding Colette had been treated with dignity and respect by veterinarians.

"You put the animal out of its misery. To an untrained person, it might not look like the most fantastic thing but you can't get a better result than that."

But witnesses say Colette's death was far from dignified.

"(She) actively started trying to get away," nearby resident Cherie Curchod said of the death.

"Then they dragged it to a closed tent and all the while they dragged it, it was flapping its tail, blowing out of its head and moving and trying to get away.

"It was so upsetting because euthanasia is meant to be an easy death and that whale did not have an easy death at all."

A spokesman for an organisation called the Divine Marine Group said he was 100 metres away from where the calf was given six lethal injections.

He compared what he called the "absolutely disgusting" sight of the whale being towed to the shore to the highly graphic scenes of Japanese whale hunting.

"It looked like a scene out of the Antarctic with a Japanese fishing boat. It was absolutely disgusting," Alexander John Littingham, a sea captain, told Fairfax Radio Network.

"She was clearly still alive, she was clearly moving, the line was thrashing.

"We're complaining about what the Japanese are doing in the Antarctic and we're allowing it to happen in Pittwater."

Representatives from the RSPCA and the Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia (ORRCA) said they were satisfied with the way the euthanasia was carried out.

Mr Littingham was one of a group of protesters who tried to organise a NSW Supreme Court injunction to stop the killing but ran out of time.

"She's died a starving death over four days, and over that period of time no one even attempted to feed the whale," he said.

The dead calf was loaded onto a trailer and taken by road to Taronga Zoo, where an autopsy will be carried out to help determine if there was a biological reason Colette was rejected by her mother.

"They'll do a post-mortem to actually see what condition it was in and to actually see what might have been the problem," NPWS director Sally Barnes said.

Ms Barnes said authorities hoped to DNA test a whale carcass off the NSW south coast near Eden to see if it was the calf's mother.

"That carcass is being eaten by sharks at the moment," she said.

"If it's safe, what we'll try and do is actually get some DNA from that carcass to see whether that was in fact Colette's mother and to help us piece together what's been happening to that whale over the last week or so."

The NPWS said it would seek community suggestions for a memorial in honour of the whale at The Basin, which is part of the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.

© 2008 AAP
Brought to you by aap


boneman said...

probably would try to escape death and 'hold down' techniques.

That's what life does. It tries to survive.
But what did they want? to watch it starve to death in the channel?

Still, if Sidney can buid that huge opera house on the banks, why not try to make a big place for animals that get, I dunno, lost?

Of course, Aussies haven't always had the best of luck when dealing with wild life, eh?

dianne said...

You're right it is the will to survive. One last try at life but it had no chance of surviving, the odds were stacked against it as soon as it lost its Mother.
An opera house is one thing, thats just a building and as far as a large place for lost animals well they do have places for some, but its a very different set of circumstances in this case. As I explained to Pug it is a wild creature who needs its Mothers milk, the consistency changes with the nutritional needs of the baby just as it does in humans. It also needed her for survival, to teach it how to live and feed when it would have finally been weaned after about a year. That was a big ask and only a surrogate Mum could have helped. It was in such a bad way putting it to sleep though harsh was the kindest option.

foam said...

yes, i read this early this morning but had to click away because it was kind of upsetting..
i'm just wondering ..
couldn't they have administered euthanasia at sea?
i'm sure it was not an easy decision for them at all..

puerileuwaite said...

I was also here earlier ... and found myself unable to comment* (* one of the signs of the apocalypse, according to some). I STILL think this whole situation could have been handled better. Not big on euthanasia at all (except maybe for certain Republicans of course). Let's move on.

Little Lamb said...

It seems to me that animals know when it their time.

dianne said...

Thank you all for your comments, I found the news footage disturbing. There is no easy answer, the whole thing has been a tragedy, whether more could have been done I dont know, not an easy solution to such a huge problem. They did try to find her Mum but she returned to the shallow waters where she must have felt some kind of safety.And as for the huge task of feeding her 230litres of cows milk per day, who would know whether she would have taken it and whether it might have made her ill or even killed her. Time to move on this is making me too sad. xoxoxo

Enemy of the Republic said...

This is really sickening. Instead of Free Willy, we need to make a movie about freeing the animals and us from the marine conservation system.

dianne said...

Thanks for popping over enemy, nice to have you here. Yes the whole thing is just too sad & sickening.