07 March 2005

Three-hour rescue mission ends in defeat

Blouberg beach was the scene of a three-hour battle to save a beached beaked whale on Friday. The battle ended in defeat when nature conservation officials decided to shoot the animal to put it out of its misery.

Adrian K�hn said he went to the beach just after 7am after one of the employees of his security company told him about the whale. The men tried to move the four-metre-long juvenile whale into deeper water but it repeatedly returned to the beach.

"I got into the water with it and tried to keep its blowhole open so it wouldn't drown as we tried to move it," K�hn said. "It was a massive and powerful creature but so gentle, I think it could sense we were trying to help it," he said.

The whale was inched back into the water in their first attempt and the three men were overjoyed.

"We really struggled for long and when we got it into deeper water it started to look good and we were all clapping and cheering. It swam out for about 20m then started turning back to the beach," K�hn said.

The men were joined by more people and another attempt was made to return the creature to deeper water. Nature Conservation, Marine and Coastal Management and Mammal Research Institute officials arrived and after a third failed attempt, the decision was taken to kill the exhausted animal.

Adel� Pretorius, of the Blouberg Conservation Area, said the whale was so exhausted that when they pushed it back the third time, "it got stuck on a sand bank and tipped over".

The whale was shot in the head, which was regarded as the most humane way to kill it.

"It was very sad to see. I was looking into its eyes all the time. After fighting for so long to save it, it was a real shame to see it die," K�hn said.

Mike Meyer, of Marine and Coastal Management, said the whale belonged to the beaked whale species and it was uncommon to see them.

"They are deepwater whales that are divers similar to sperm whales," he said.

Beaked whales usually grow to about seven metres in length. Meyer said that they would dissect the whale to see if they could find out why it beached.


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