Beached Whales Shot In South Africa

Beached Whales Shot In South Africa

There was a very sad scene in Cape Town, South Africa, last week as authorities had to shoot dozens of beached pilot whales on a shore near South Africa's southern tip. Hundreds of local residents went to the beach to try to save the exhausted animals, and although their efforts were admirable, there was nothing they could do for them.

Once whales become beached, their sensitive skins can be exposed to the air and sun, drying out and suffering sever sunburn and blistering.
 
The volunteers tried as hard as they could to keep the whales hydrated, and attempted to move them back out into the sea. One woman even suffered suspected fractured ribs after she was caught between a whale and some rocks.  Rocks are another peril for whales which find themselves too close to shore.  Although these giant animals are kings of the open sea, they live in an environment where they rarely come into contact with rough, hard surfaces and their rubbery skin is surprisingly fragile.  If their heavy bodies are washed against rocks, they usually suffer severe cuts and lacerations.

Several other volunteers had to be rescued when they found themselves struggling in the strong currents after attempting to swim the whales beyond the breaking waves.
 
The 55 whales ended up being beached near the Cape of Good Hope during the early hours of the morning, although it is not known what caused the whales to become stranded.  When it became clear that the whales were not going to survive, it was decided that euthanasia was the kindest thing to stop the animals from suffering.
 
Nan Rice, head of the Dolphin Action and Protection Group, told the South African Press Association said about the shootings, "I feel quite sad, but it is the right thing to do. They are huge animals and are stranded over a vast area.”
 
Authorities in Cape Town brought in the fire brigade, police, navy, lifeboat services, disaster management teams and expert divers to try and save the whales. They also brought in six bulldozers to try and get them back into deeper water, but they kept swimming back to the shore.
 
Authorities planned on moving the whales by road to a nearby deep-water naval base, but it was decided that the animals’ health had already deteriorated too much.  Ten of the whales had already died from the stress of their ordeal.  Some whales managed to get back to sea, but experts are afraid they may not be healthy enough to survive the ordeal. 
 
Scientists eventually decided there was nothing else to do but shoot the remaining 35 whales to save them from a long and painful death.
 
Police tried to clear the beach after the decision was made, and minor altercations broke out between officials and distraught volunteers who wanted to keep trying to save the whales.
 
The South African coast is well known for whale watching throughout the winter, but officials said that mass beachings are very rare.  There are many theories on why whales beach themselves, with some people blaming global warming, pollution and other human activity, although the real reason is still a mystery.