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Baby whale stranded off Australia to be euthanized

Baby humpback whale

Marine mammal enthusiasts around the world have been following the plight of a baby humpback whale that had taken to suckling on boats off Australia after it had become separated from its mother.

Sadly, the country’s National Park Service decided to kill the 2- to 3-week-old calf this afternoon (Friday morning in Australia) by lethal injection, to spare the starving cetacean from further suffering, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

When I first heard about a whale nuzzling boats it reminded me of an incident off Orange County a few years ago involving a gray whale mother and calf returning from the Baja California calving grounds to the Bering Sea.

The calf kept separating from its mother and swimming up to fishing boats. The mother, several times, had to position in front of her calf and use her massive body to turn the calf away.

It raised a serious issue: Are whale-watching outfits in Baja’s lagoons — outfits that allow very close encounters and sometimes even the touching of newborn gray whales — conditioning young whales to be too trusting of humans?

That controversy faded, though, as there have been only isolated repeat incidents during subsequent northbound migrations.

In Australia, many were critical of the decision to euthanize the humpback calf. Some wanted it lured back into deep water in hope that an adult female would come along and adopt it, but experts said that would be highly unlikely and cited the deteriorating condition of the whale, which could be subject to predation by sharks.

Others wanted scientists to try to nurture the whale in captivity, but that was deemed too impractical and costly.

Australia’s National Park Service consulted with Sea World and was told that when J.J., the stranded gray whale, was raised at the San Diego facility in the 1990s it required 30-person teams working around the clock for 14 months in a 1.7-million-gallon pool that had to be partially drained and refilled every two hours to flush waste.

Not to mention the cost of milk. J.J. gained 8 tons before her 1998 release off Point Loma. She was tracked briefly and faded into obscurity.

(Check out this video regarding J.J., posted By the Whale Rescue Team, which was critical of how Sea World handled the situation.)

Unfortunately for the humpback off Australia, there was no such helping hand, only a prescribed overdose of an anesthetic. There’ll be those who say that was plenty; that nature must be allowed to take its course.

Perhaps that is true, but try convincing the human heart.

—Pete Thomas

Photo: Aboriginal whale caller, Bunna Lawrie, tries to comfort a humpback whale calf at the Basin at Pittwater, Australia. Experts decided to euthanize the weakening mammal, which had become separated from its mother.
Credit: Peter Morris / Sydney Morning Herald

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Comments (12)

I live in Australia and i think it is absolutely disgusting that they put him down, the authorities were making excuses, when it was all about MONEY! they couldn't have been bothered to try and get the money and help! i mean the formula is used on killer whales!
Also a whale has appeared on a beach and they think its Colins mum so i think she must have been attacked by a shark or something.

RIP Colin!!!

It looks like the mother whale has been found dead in southern australia, shark bites found on body. autopsy on colin suggest shark bites are present on his body. the chances of colin finding another pod to adopt a rare at best and with shark bite injuries i believe euthanasia was the best and humaine way.

stop crying you losers. Go invade another country

I am an Australian and am ashamed by the decision to euthanize Colin. We look like cold hearted bastards and bloody idiots for not even trying.

We must boycott Australia. Cut off all relations. Recall our embassy. Throw away your Mel Gibson movies. No more shrimp on the Barbie. Oh the humanity!

Dear SM,

Did it say that the mother rejected the calf? I think it is naive for you not to have all of the facts before you post something that seems to be very uneducated on the subject.

Here's the thing. The calf, for whatever reason, has been rejected by its mother. This is nature at work. To say that it's inexcusable to save it is a rather naive opinion. Parks and Wildlife tried their best to come up with a viable solution to try and help this humpback whale however it was deemed that there was none. We have no way of feeding this animal, no way of socialising it with other pods, no way of teaching it to eat krill in the waters of the Antarctic and maybe, most importantly, no way of communicating. Humpbacks sing. Yes all whales sing, but the humpbacks song is complex and is key for mating. I ask you, how do you teach this to such a mammal when we only have our limited range and we don't quite understand it yet? It's a sad and terrible thing but the most humane option here is euthanasia.

I don't understand. How is it ok for MAN to deplete the world of all natural resources, build houses like crazy, take away wild life habitats but have the money to provide weapons and nuclear bombs!!! It sounds so convenient to say that nature must be allowed to take its course!!!!!

The lack of concern over our earth and all it's creatures by humanity astounds me. These whales are creatures that should be protected - not euthanized! It appears to me that Australians have a misguided approach to preserving an endangered species and obviously have no care at all when money is involved.

If that animal had been found off the coast of the USA, he'd have had a much better chance. May God watch over and protect Colin's spirit.

If this is the extent of iingenuity, ambition, perseverance, and problem solving in Australia, I say, "Thank God I do not live there!" The failure and unwillingness to intervene in the whale calf case is totally unexcusable!

This is the saddest thing !
Why couldn't they find a substitute mother
and leave them both free?
In Too much of a hurry imo.

Bunna Lawrie whose totem animal is the Whale did a good thing in serenading the poor baby to comfort him and the whale, Colin, lifted his head apparently as your photo shows. It is a very sad story but if euthanasing ends the suffering of the poor creature if he is destined to otherwise starve to death at the mercy of sharks then what is wrong with this? What would his mother think...perhaps she was taken by the harpooning of whales in our seas which should be stopped. Colin will become a martyr of sorts in drawing attention to the plight of whales again to the world too consumed with material wealth rather than natural conservation. May he rest in peace.


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Outposts' primary contributor is Kelly Burgess.