Namibia: Stranded Whale Euthanised At Walvis Bay

The humpback whale that stranded on Walvis Bay's Independence Beach last week has been euthanised.

For several days, since Wednesday last week, about eight attempts were made to redirect the whale back into the deeper ocean, but it kept coming back to the shore.

Scores of volunteers first worked together with the Namibian Dolphin Project to push the whale back into the deeper waters, with the hopes it would decide to swim back into the Atlantic and fight to stay alive.

When that did not work, it was decided to pull it into the deep with a vessel - deeper than the humans could have pushed it - but that still was in vain.

Sadly, when it was on shore, scores of people mobbed the struggling whale, jumping onto it and posing for photos and videos spread over social media. Eventually the police were summoned to cordon off the animal, so it could die undisturbed.

The last attempt with the vessels was also difficult because, according to the project's Dorothy Fourie, it had dug itself into the beach sand and it was not possible to force it to move without injuring it.

"So it was called off, and the whale was euthanised by the police in the early hours of the morning [Saturday]. An instant, clean death which was felt to be a more humane option than potentially several more days of suffering in the sun and shallows and following best international practices in this situation," she said.

The carcass has now been removed from the beach to a secluded site where the project's research team are taking some final measurements and samples.

Fourie said that all signs indicated a death by natural causes and extreme emaciation, as the animal appeared to be very thin.

According to her, there have been several strandings of humpback whales in a similar situation in southern Africa recently.

"Timing wise [these] animals should be undertaking their southward migration back to feeding grounds after several months in the tropical breeding grounds. We had a similar spate of stranded 'skinny' whales in 2017 and it is likely that this situation is being driven by food availability in the southern ocean feeding grounds and not any local conditions or events. Ultimately this can probably be viewed as a positive thing as it suggests the populations have now recovered so far that they are near the 'carrying capacity' of the environment," she said.

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