Australia (9/30/2008)

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  • Date: 2008-09-30
  • Location: Jurien Bay, Western Australia
  • Species: Humpback whale
  • Category: Euthanization

This is perhaps one of the more tragic instances of euthanization by explosives. It is a perfect example of what shouldn’t happen when explosives are used to put a stranded or injured whale out of its suffering. In this case, officials failed to utilize enough explosives in the first blast to kill the animal.

The incident started on September 24, 2008, when a juvenile humpback whale was spotted rolling on a reef in the shallow waters of Jurien Bay, located about 130 miles north of Perth. Aside from some superficial damage sustained as the whale came ashore, experts could not find any obvious signs of injury or illness. But the whale did appear weak, and wildlife officers concluded it must be chronically ill. The initial claims were that the whale was too weak to be rescued, that attempting to move it would cause further injury, and that it was too large to euthanize. They decided to let nature take its course.

But five days later, the whale was still alive, and those in charge had changed their minds with respect to euthanizing it. They devised a plan to detonate an explosive charge directly into the whale’s brain, thus ending its suffering swiftly. And so, on September 30 the plan was put into motion. Initial reports suggested that the operation had been successful and that within five minutes of the blast the animal was completely dead. However, additional details of the operation later came to light and revealed that the initial charge had, in fact, failed to kill the animal. As the animal thrashed about for several minutes, a wildlife officer began repeatedly firing bullets into the suffering animal’s brain. A second charge, detonated after 15 more minutes, finally brought about the whale’s demise.

By failing to utilize enough explosives, officials completely defeated the whole purpose of euthanization by explosives. They blew a non-lethal crater into the whale’s head that could only have resulted in excruciating pain and immeasurable suffering. And then, after 15 minutes of being shot, they finally set off a second explosion on the whale’s bullet-riddled skull. One would be hard-pressed to come up with a more tortuous way to die.

As gruesome as it was, it is reasonable to believe that those in charge were truly trying to act mercifully. But one can’t help to wonder if they sought advice from other experts? Did they consult other jurisdictions that have had to perform similar operations? We may never know. We can only hope that this incident may serve as an example of what not to do the next time similar circumstances arise.

September 25 2008 at 14:00 WST

Wildlife officers monitoring dying whale

Lisa Calautti

A 15-tonne, 10 metre juvenile humpback whale remains stranded in shallow waters at Jurien Bay.

The whale is believed to be chronically ill and Department of Environment and Conservation officers are closely monitoring the whale which was seen rolling on a reef yesterday.

It is now on shore 1km south of Jurien Bay, 266km north of Perth.

Officers have reported no change in the whale’s condition.

Senior wildlife officer Doug Coughran said apart from some superficial damage sustained when the whale crossed the reef, there were no signs to explain why it came ashore.

“We can only speculate that it is chronically ill,” he said.

The size of the whale meant intervention was not feasible.

“The whale is so weak that it can’t be rescued and moving such a large animal is not possible without causing it significant damage and distress, and it is too big to euthanase,” Mr Coughran said.

“With our extensive scientific and practical experience with whale strandings, the only humane option now is to try and keep the animal as comfortable as possible while nature takes its course.

“The cool, damp weather is helping in this regard.”

The department is urging people not to approach the whale or try to push it back out to sea, because it was important the whale remained calm.

© 2008 The West Australian

Source: The West Australian
Date: 2008-09-25
URL: original link

September 25 2008 at 14:40 WST

Juvenile humpback stranded at Jurien Bay

Department of Environment and Conservation

Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) officers are closely monitoring a live humpback whale stranded in shallow waters off Jurien Bay.

The 10-metre, 15-tonne juvenile was spotted rolling on a reef yesterday and is now on the shore 1km south of Jurien Bay.

DEC senior wildlife officer Doug Coughran said apart from some superficial damage sustained when the animal crossed the reef, there are no other signs indicating why it has come ashore.
“We can only speculate that it is chronically ill,” Mr Coughran said.

Mr Coughran said due to the size of the whale intervention would not be possible.

“The whale is so weak that it can’t be rescued and moving such a large animal is not possible without causing it significant damage and distress, and it is too big to euthanase,” he said.

“With our extensive scientific and practical experience with whale strandings, the only humane option now is to try and keep the animal as comfortable as possible while nature takes its course.

“The cool, damp weather is helping in this regard.” Members of the public are urged not to approach the whale or attempt to push it back out to sea, as it is in very poor condition and should be allowed to remain calm.

DEC will continue to provide updates on the whale’s condition.

Source: Western Australia Department of Environment and Conservation
Date: 2008-09-25
URL: original link


September 26 2008 at 09:40 WST

Dying whale “a fighter”

Lisa Calautti and Aleisha Preedy

A chronically ill 10 metre juvenile humpback whale stranded in shallow waters at Jurien Bay for three days has proved to be a fighter and is still alive.

A Department of Environment and Conservation spokeswoman told thewest.com.au the 15-tonne mammal is still being monitored by DEC officers.

The spokeswoman said officers would assess the animal today, but expected its condition decrease as it rolled around near a reef 1km south of Jurien Bay, 266km north of Perth.

It is feared the whale could attract sharks to the area.

Senior wildlife officer Doug Coughran yesterday said apart from some superficial damage sustained when the whale crossed the reef, there were no signs to explain why it came ashore.

“We can only speculate that it is chronically ill,” he said.

The size of the whale meant intervention was not feasible.

“The whale is so weak that it can’t be rescued and moving such a large animal is not possible without causing it significant damage and distress, and it is too big to euthanase,” Mr Coughran said.

“With our extensive scientific and practical experience with whale strandings, the only humane option now is to try and keep the animal as comfortable as possible while nature takes its course.

“The cool, damp weather is helping in this regard.”

The department is urging people not to approach the whale or try to push it back out to sea, because it was important the whale remained calm.

© 2008 The West Australian

Source: The West Australian
Date: 2008-09-25
URL: original link

September 26 2008 at 15:45 WST

Stranded whale being ‘kept comfortable’

Lisa Calautti and Aleisha Preedy

Department of Environment officers are still monitoring a chronically ill 10 metre juvenile humpback whale stranded in shallow waters at Jurien Bay.

A spokeswoman told thewest.com.au the 15-tonne mammal was still alive and officers had been doing their best to keep it calm and comfortable since it became stranded three days ago.

The spokeswoman said officers would assess the animal today, but expected its condition to decrease as it rolled around near a reef 1km south of Jurien Bay, 266km north of Perth.

It is feared the whale could attract sharks to the area.

Senior wildlife officer Doug Coughran said apart from some superficial damage sustained when the whale crossed the reef, there were no signs to explain why it came ashore.

“We can only speculate that it is chronically ill,” he said.

The size of the whale meant intervention was not feasible.

“The whale is so weak that it can’t be rescued and moving such a large animal is not possible without causing it significant damage and distress, and it is too big to euthanase,” Mr Coughran said.

“With our extensive scientific and practical experience with whale strandings, the only humane option now is to try and keep the animal as comfortable as possible while nature takes its course.

“The cool, damp weather is helping in this regard.”

The department is urging people not to approach the whale or try to push it back out to sea, because it was important the whale remained calm.

© 2008 The West Australian

Source: The West Australian
Date: 2008-09-26
URL: original link

September 29 2008 at 06:00 WST

Whale’s pain to be ended in explosion

Angela Pownall

Wildlife officers are planning to kill a sick whale that has been stranded in shallow water at Jurien Bay for five days.

The 15-tonne humpback whale beached 1km south of Jurien town on Wednesday and was initially deemed too big to be rescued or put down.

But whale expert Doug Coughran said that he was now looking to end the 10m animal’s suffering by detonating an explosive charge into its brain tomorrow morning.

Mr Coughran, a senior wildlife officer at the Department of Environment and Conservation, said: “The whale has been winding down (to die) a bit more.

“There’s no way it’s going back (to sea). It is as calm as it can be. We’ve put damp sheets on its back to shield it from the sun but blisters are starting to appear.”

The young humpback, thought to be two or three years old, was spotted rolling on the reef near Jurien on Wednesday before it came to rest a few metres away from the shore.

Mr Coughran said a boat had reported hitting a whale this month and that the stranded humpback could have been injured in that collision.

Alternatively, the whale could have an illness that was affecting its major organs. “It’s taking a while to die,” Mr Coughran said. “What we’ve been doing is monitoring the process and now it’s getting to a stage where its condition is such that we can seriously consider efficient and instantaneous ways to euthanise it.”

Mr Coughran said the whale may still die naturally and that was why the DEC had not ended its suffering earlier. “Of all the options that’s the most peaceful one and I’m hoping it will still go that way,” he said.

The last time an explosive charge was used to kill a beached whale in WA was in 1990 when an 18-month-old calf was abandoned by its mother on a Bunbury beach.

© 2008 The West Australian

Source: The West Australian
Date: 2008-09-29
URL: original link

September 30 2008 at 17:15 WST

Dying whale put down by explosives

Kate Ferguson

Explosives have been used to put down a dying 15 tonne humpback whale stranded in shallow waters at Jurien Bay.

The whale thrashed its tail for at least five minutes after the blast, which was authorised by the Department of Environment but condemned by a local whale expert.

Department of Environment spokesman Nigel Higgs confirmed the whale’s death just after 5pm.

“We have just euthanised the whale and we will propose to bury it on site,” Mr Higgs said.

The whale was euthanised by a technique which caused an imposion into its brain.

“It went as well as it can be expected, it is a big animal,” Mr Higgs said.

A 1km exclusion zone was enforced around the whale while the procedure took place.

The euthanising technique was condemned by former whale rescuer Laurie Levy.

The veteran animal campaigner said the 10m whale should be towed back out to sea for a chance of survival.

“I have always believed in rescuing and giving them a chance of survival,” he said.

“I’ve seen whales in the past that vets thought were on their last legs and wouldn’t survive. Yet we have got them out and they’ve been leading the whales out there.”

The 10m juvenile humpback had been stranded in shallow waters at Jurien Bay for almost a week and was suffering from severe skin lesions and sunburn.

Wildlife officers tested the whale’s reflexes earlier today and said it reacted in a way a whale normally would not.

Environment department senior wildlife officer Doug Coughran told thewest.com.au the whale let officers get close without thrashing about and let them pick up its fins.

Mr Coughran said the lesions that had formed on the whale’s skin had now burst and its skin was peeling.

Wildlife officers now face the problem of strong winds and tides in their efforts to get close to the whale.

Local resident Annette Birkholz has been watching the whale for days and said it was a sad situation.

“He is still breathing,” she said. “And the saddest part is seeing his beautiful big spray.

“I just think he is going to get up and go as he actually moved himself a couple of times but today he is not moving much at all.”

© 2008 The West Australian

Source: The West Australian
Date: 2008-09-30
URL: original link

September 30 2008 at 17:30

Stranded Jurien Bay humpback put down

Narelle Towie

A HUMPBACK whale stranded at Jurien Bay took 15 minutes to die as wildlife officers triggered implosive charges on its brain and shot the animal in the head.

The 10m, 15-tonne juvenile was too big to be looked after and too sick to be moved out to sea, a spokeswoman from the Department of Environment and Conservation said.

Efforts by wildlife officers to kill the sick animal instantly using electrical charges to cause an implosion above the whale’s brain failed at 5pm yesterday.

Officers then shot the whale several times in the head before detonating a second charge which finally killed the mammal 15 minutes after the approved yet controversial procedure began.

The technique has been condemned by whale rescuer Laurie Levy who compared the method to Japanese harpooning.

The whale will now be buried on site.

The Department of Environment and Conservation said they were not sure why the humpback had come to shore.

“Humpbacks rarely strand and do so only if they have serious health issues,” Dr Coughran said.

© 2008 PerthNow / The Sunday Times

Source: PerthNow / The Sunday Times
Date: 2008-09-30
URL: original link

September 30 2008 at 20:01

Stranded Jurien Bay humpback put down

WEST Australian environment officers have euthanased a juvenile humpback whale stranded on a beach near Jurien Bay.

The 15-tonne juvenile was first spotted rolling on a reef last Thursday and then became beached 1km south of Jurien Bay in the state’s mid-west region.

The Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) had speculated the whale was chronically ill.

The department acknowledged calls to push the whale back out to sea to give it a chance to survive.

But DEC Senior Wildlife Officer Doug Coughran said the whale was too ill and weak to move, and any such operation would have only prolonged its suffering.

“The animal is 10.5m long and weighs an estimated 15 tonnes,” Mr Coughran said.

“Humpbacks rarely strand and do so only if they have serious health issues.”

The whale was killed by explosives detonated near its brain. It will be buried at the site.

© 2008 Herald Sun / Herald and Weekly Times

Source: Herald Sun / Herald and Weekly Times
Date: 2008-09-30
URL: original link

October 1 2008 at 06:45 WST

Humpback shot after explosives failed

Angela Pownall and Kate Ferguson

A stranded whale put down in Jurien Bay yesterday took at least 15 minutes to die after wildlife officers detonated explosives charges into its brain and shot it.

The 15-tonne humpback did not die instantly as hoped when the first charge exploded just after 5pm. An officer then shot the 10m-long whale several times in the head and, when it continued to thrash its tail, detonated a second charge about 15 minutes after the first.

The killing was condemned by former whale rescuer Laurie Levy, who compared it to a Japanese harpooning.

Nigel Higgs, from the Department of Environment and Conservation, said last night: “We did have to use shots. We did have to use another charge, which we did as quickly as possible and was successful. This was the first time in 18 years this has been done.”

A 1km exclusion zone was set up around the whale, which beached 1km south of Jurien Bay six days ago. It was buried nearby.

“I’m disappointed that they went ahead with it,” Mr Levy, who ran the Whale Rescue Centre in Victoria in the 1980s, said. “Hearing that the whale thrashed . . . after the implosion concerns me a great deal.”

The veteran animal campaigner said the killing sent the “wrong message” to the world about Australia’s treatment of whales and could encourage other countries to kill whales rather than rescue them.

Mr Levy said the whale, thought to be two or three years old, should have been towed out to sea in the hope that it would recover or should have been made comfortable and allowed to die naturally.

“(It) is a bit like a Japanese harpoon going into one and then thrashing around for five, 10, 15 minutes in the ocean,” he said.

A week ago, the whale was seen rolling on the reef before coming to rest a few metres from the shore.

The DEC said it was too big to be towed out to sea or put down and decided to try to make it comfortable and leave it to die naturally. As its condition worsened yesterday, officers decided to end its suffering.

Doug Coughran, the senior DEC wildlife officer who co-ordinated the operation, said an attempted rescue would have put the whale under more stress and prolonged suffering.

© 2008 The West Australian

Source: The West Australian
Date: 2008-10-01
URL: original link

October 1 2008 at 16:32 WST

Stranded whale put down

Department of Environment and Conservation

A juvenile humpback whale stranded on the beach 1km south of Jurien townsite for the past week has been euthanased.

Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) marine wildlife officers this afternoon oversaw an operation to euthanase the animal using a technique approved by the Department’s Animal Ethics Committee.

The approved technique involved using charges to cause an implosion above the brain.

DEC Senior Wildlife Officer Doug Coughran said the animal’s physical condition had deteriorated considerably over the last 24 hours allowing wildlife officers to safely approach the whale and carry out the procedure.

Mr Coughran said while some people had called for the whale to be ‘rescued’, any such operation would have put the animal under further stress and prolonged the suffering.

“The animal is 10.5m long and weighs an estimated 15 tonnes,” he said.

“Humpbacks rarely strand and do so only if they have serious health issues.”

Source: Western Australia Department of Environment and Conservation
Date: 2008-10-01
URL: original link

October 1 2008

Electrical explosives used on whale

Kate Ferguson

Source: The Western Australian
Date: 2008-10-01
URL: original link