The 11-metre humpback whale that washed up on Maphelane’s beach just south of St Lucia in the beginning of July had to be euthanised.
The poor state of the whale’s health and the fact that it had washed up so high on the beach made it impossible for conservation authorities to return it to sea.
The KZN Marine Stranding Network based in Durban was alerted to the stranding by the St Lucia NSRI Station 40 team on 1 July.
The NSRI members noticed the whale when launching their vessel for early morning training.
They also notified local Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and iSimangaliso Wetland Park officers.
Jennifer Olbers of the KZN Marine Stranding Network said: “The whale was initially reported to be dead, but upon arrival of Ezemvelo and iSimangaliso staff, it was found that the animal was still alive.
“The animal was found to be very alert, but not in good condition and very high up on the beach.
“It appeared to have been on the beach for a number of hours.”
She said in terms of the animal’s welfare, a joint decision by the various authorities and stranding experts was made to euthanise it.
“Owing to the size and bone thickness of the skulls of these animals, assistance from the SAPS explosives unit was requested.
“The SAPS is occasionally called upon to euthanise these large animals, and strict protocols and guidelines are adhered to for both human safety and in the interest of the animal. It died instantly.”
Olbers said the expertise and integrity of the SAPS was commended, and thanked all who had been involved in this “demanding and emotional stranding incident”.
This story was republished from the Zululand Observer with permission.