South African rescue teams have managed to return to the water 20 false killer whales which beached near Cape Town but others have had to be put down.

Bulldozers were used to try to push the 55 adults and calves back into the water as high winds and waves hampered the rescue operation.

The whales, about 3m (10ft) long, are common to the waters off South Africa.

It is unclear how the mammals became stranded and some which were returned to the water swam back to the beach.

Craig Lambinon, a spokesman for the National Sea Rescue Institute, told Reuters news agency that he could not say how many whales would have to be killed.

Those who could not be saved were being shot humanely in the head.

It was the first mass beaching of whales Mr Lambinon had seen on the popular beach at Kommetjie, near Cape Point.

“As soon as we put them back into the sea, they swim back to the beach again,” he said earlier.

The NSRI initially identified them as pilot whales, but said later they were false killer whales, Reuters reports.

Rough seas also pushed some whales back ashore.

Volunteer helpers and onlookers flocked to the area, blocking the main approach road, reports say.


4 Responses

  1. The help of hundreds of volunteers was forced to a halt by police and decision makers who approached each whale, prevented access by the public and journalists and shot the whales to ‘free them from their suffering’. Or should we read: ‘terminate the operation’? Proper guidelines about how to best help the whales and why they suddenly had to shoot the whales just before high tide was not given. Trauma counseling was advised. One ‘authority’ described the public’s distressful reaction was ‘disgusting’. Is this really acceptable? What are the decision makers’ credentials?
    See more thoughts, questions and pictures on this blog:

  2. I posted a blog with my experiences, questions and pictures. But will add here a thought about the ‘humane euthanising’:

    I tend to think of two approaches: either we let nature take its course and let the whales be – even if the beaching was caused by human causes.
    Or, we interfere and manage – which is what we tend to do. Then I see the questions: what will we manage for? For minimizing pain in the animals, or for trying to rescue individual animals as best we can for the sake of maintaining populations and species – even if the animals may be in pain for longer?

    I’m not sure what the population status is for False Killer Whales, but I here assume that it warrants great efforts for trying to save as many as possible individuals. Should our notion of pain in the animals then really have terminated the huge rescue operation?

    (And do we really know how much it is in pain? If we do, should we start shooting someone who just lost its arm)?

    Many volunteers and bystanders describe the rescue-operation as chaotic and mismanaged (see other posts in this blog, also see the Cape Times June 2, 2009, page 8). The authorities asked the rethorical question: “Would you not want to end an animal’s suffering?”. It does sound ‘logic and the best option’ to do so; who would say ‘no’?

    Does ‘humanely euthanasing’ (or ‘shooting in the brain’) justify ending the rescue operation? What about focusing on the rescue solution, such as waiting for high tide, providing straps, more blankets and coaching? Preventing pain in animals doesn’t seem to be a pure argument for ending what we tend to manage for: saving populations and species.

    Unless perhaps there are enough False Killer Whales anyway, and so only their comfort is what counts to us. In that case, why have considered rescueing beached animals in the first place?

    More thoughts, questions and pictures on my blog – please share your viewpoints.

  3. […] Connect Africa: SA rescuers save 20 whales […]

  4. Killer Whales are amazing creatures..just had to share this beautiful pic:

    gotta love killer whales…hope to see some real ones soon..

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