August 22, 2008 in Nation/World

Officials euthanize lost baby whale in Australia

By KRISTEN GELINEAU Associated Press
Associated Press photo

A lost humpback whale calf swims around a yacht in the Pittwater, north of Sydney Harbor, on Monday.
(Full-size photo)

SYDNEY, Australia – An injured and abandoned baby humpback whale was euthanized by wildlife officials today after veterinarians determined it was too weak to survive on its own.

The plight of the whale calf, which Australians have nicknamed “Colin,” has dominated news coverage here since it was first sighted Sunday and began trying to suckle from boats it apparently mistook for its mother.

This morning, the 14-foot-long animal was guided close to the shore and could be seen thrashing about. Officials reached out to stroke the calf before others hoisted it onto a tarp. The whale was then pulled into a tent on the beach and gray tarps were hung to obscure the operation.

Roger Bell, spokesman for the National Parks and Wildlife Service, said the animal was given an anesthetic in the water before a lethal drug was administered on shore. He said it died around 9 a.m.

“The whale suffered as little as possible,” he told the Associated Press.

Officials believe the 1- to 2-month-old calf was abandoned by its mother, possibly because it was ill. Wildlife officials said it appeared the whale had also been attacked by a shark.

It spent days among the yachts and other boats in the waters off north Sydney, swimming back to the boats each time officials lured it out to sea in the hope it would attach to a passing pod of humpback whales.

“As the calf is still being breast fed, we have no way of feeding or socializing it, so taking this humpback into captivity is not an option,” the National Parks and Wildlife Service said in a statement this week.

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