Perth, Australia – The Department for Environment and Conservation moved to euthanize a juvenile humpback whale yesterday after it was stranded on a sandbar. The authorities had originally decided to let the whale expire naturally in the water but on
ce the whale became stranded on the sandbar a hard choice was made to reduce the suffering of the animal.
While explosives may seem like a particularly cruel way to euthanize a whale it is the recommended solution of the International Whaling Commission. For animals over the length of 26 feet explosives are preferred over shooting as the animal may not be killed by a single shot given the size. This juvenile humpback whale measured 31 feet.
“It’s ugly but it’s also a fast and one of the few ways to euthanize a whale that’s stranded and in distress for too long,” said Ken Balcomb, the executive director and research biologist for the Center for Whale Research since 1985.
Balcomb, who has euthanized several whales, said there are essentially two ways to end the mammal’s life if there is no hope of healing it and freeing it. One can either exact a controlled explosion or cut the throat.
“If a whale has been in that spot for two weeks, you have to assume that its brain is not functioning, that it’s in a twilight zone, and isn’t really aware of what’s happening,” Balcomb said.