3 re-beached whales euthanised

Beached whale at Noordhoek (@lesterkk, Twitter)
Beached whale at Noordhoek (@lesterkk, Twitter)
Cape Town- Three of the five beached pilot whales that were released into False Bay on Sunday afternoon have been euthanised early on Monday.

“At approximately 02:30 on Monday veterinary surgeons, under the guidance of the department of environmental affairs and the SPCA, humanely euthanised the three beached whales which were found to be in poor and deteriorating health,” NSRI spokesperson Craig Lambinon said in a statement.

Department of environmental [oceans and coast] affairs chief research technician, Lieze Swart, said the whales had suffered much physiological trauma and stress.

“In nature when whales are in the water their body weight is supported by the surrounding water so when the whale beaches its own body weight acts negatively on the animal where the ribs could get cracked and internal organs get crushed under their own weight over time,” she told News24.

The decision to euthanise some animals on Sunday as well as the three on Monday was taken after consultation by the veterinary surgeons after extensive monitoring.

Swart said veterinary surgeons monitored the animals’ heart rate, breathing, condition of the skin, and how lively the animals were throughout the day.

According to Swart a high powered rifle was used to kill the animals as humanely as possible. An understanding of the whale skull morphology was essential.

“The use of an injection as an alternative would have caused many hours of suffering,” she said.

Police cordoned off the area from the public who were visibly upset by the event.

Likely to beach again

The global phenomenon of beaching whales is not fully understood. Theories include the susceptibility to beaching if the lead animal beaches. Other reasons include boat strikes and the animals’ internal navigation systems being dysfunctional.

A key characteristic of the whales are also that they are gregarious and have to stay together. According to Swart “you cannot return them to sea one by one”, they are likely to beach again.

"The False Bay coastline is being monitored by the authorities to determine if the remaining two whales may also beach," he said.

Nineteen pilot whales, mostly adults, beached at Noordhoek Beach in Cape Town on Sunday morning. A twentieth whale had managed to swim back into the surf.

Lambinon, at the time, said five of them were transported to the Simonstown naval base and taken out to sea. One of them had re-beached in Simonstown and was later taken to sea on a tugboat.

Another nine whales were euthanized on Noordhoek beach, and another five died naturally.

Police, sea rescue and other services helped keep the mammals alive on the beach by using sheets and water. Attempts to refloat them had failed.

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