THE Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) says an injured sperm whale that beached itself in Warrnambool had to be humanely killed.
Passers-by found the three-metre-long whale, believed to be either a pygmy or dwarf sperm whale, early yesterday morning on the beach near the Worm Bay car park.
The whale was bleeding and had cuts and bruising. A vet and DEPI staff determined the whale’s injuries were too significant for it to be returned to the water and decided to euthanise the animal.
Little is known about both the pygmy and dwarf sperm whales, which are rarely sighted at sea. Most of what is known about either species comes from analysis of stranded whales.
DEPI project manager-biodiversity Andrew Pritchard said the Warrnambool Wildlife Rescue Group was already providing care to the animal when DEPI staff arrived.
He said members of the public who had gathered at the beach were concerned there wasn’t enough being done to care for the animal and were making their feelings known.
But Mr Pritchard said animals stranded themselves for a reason and usually could not be returned to the water.
“It’s very rare that animals can be re-released after they become stranded,” he said.
“They normally come to the shore when they are injured or in distress.
“In mass strandings, there is sometimes a few animals that can be returned to the water, but that generally isn’t the case in single strandings.”
He said rescue group members knew what they were doing and did the right thing.
“They reported the stranding to the whale and dolphin emergency hotline, made an assessment and then stood back, which is exactly the right thing to do,” he said.
“If people do see a whale or dolphin stranded, we urge them to go and have a look and make an assessment, call the hotline on 1300 136 017 but then stand back and wait.
“There are laws about how close people can get to whales and dolphins and they can sometimes carry diseases which can be passed to humans, so there is a need to take care.”
He said the whale was taken to the Melbourne Zoo for a post-mortem which he hoped would provide answers about the cause of the injuries.