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Stranded Whale Calf Euthanased at Lennox Head as Strandings Increase Along East Coast

Two whales stranded on the West Coast of Northland. 06 August 2018 Northern Advocate photograph by Michael Cunningham

A humpback whale calf believed to be just a couple of days old has been euthanased on a NSW North Coast beach.

Key points:

  • A decision to euthanase the whale calf was based on its low chance of survival
  • Eight calves have stranded along the east coast in the past fortnight
  • The calf was believed to be only two days old

A member of the public alerted volunteer wildlife rehabilitation group Orrca on Tuesday morning of the whale washed up on Seven Mile Beach at Lennox Head.

A physical assessment made by Seaworld veterinarian, Claire Madden, as well as blood tests, pointed to limited options for the animal.

“This is a dependent animal,” Dr Madden said.

“There is really slim to no chance of this individual surviving if we were to refloat it out into the ocean.”

Volunteers and officials hold a tarp while a veterinarian euthanases the calf.

The position of the calf’s dorsal fin, located mid-way on its back, helped to determine its age.

“The folding of the dorsal fin is typical of a calf when it is inside its mum’s uterus, so I would put this whale at just a couple of days of age,” Dr Madden said.

The whale is the second to become stranded on the same stretch of the NSW coastline, about 20 kilometres south of Australia’s most easterly point, Byron Bay.

“As humpbacks migrate north or south, this is a region where they do tend to aggregate as it is an easterly point of our coast, so it’s not too alarming to see this,” Dr Madden said.

volunteers dig a trench for the whale and a sunshade is erected

“However the thing that is most concerning is that we have seen a real increase in calf strandings right along the east coast of Australia.

“This is the eighth calf we’ve had in a matter of 14 days.”

Best decision, but still devastating

A trench was dug to keep the calf comfortable, with volunteers providing wet towels and bedsheets throughout the day.

Orrca site coordinator Hazel McCallum said, given the condition of the calf, it was more about palliative care.

“You want a good outcome, but it’s not always the way,” Ms McCallum said.

“It’s devastating. It’s not something you just go home and forget about.”

Dr Madden said her decision-making was centred on what was best for the animal.

“This certainly isn’t what you aspire to do when you want to be a marine mammal vet,” she said.

“You want to be out there saving the individuals but, in this instance, it’s the best decision for the animal.”

Plans are underway for the calf to be buried in sand dunes nearby.

Source: ABC News