South African beach a killing field for whales

May 31st, 2009 - 2:11 am ICT by John Le Fevre  

Dozens of beached pilot whales have been euthanazed on a Cape Town beach after an army of rescue volunteers were unable to return the stranded mammals to the sea.

Around 55 pilot whales washed up on Kommetjie beach in Cape Town shortly after dawn on Saturday and volunteers from the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) and marine scientists quickly descended and tried to get them back to sea.

However, as soon as they were returned to the surf, the whales, which measured between four to six-metres in length, kept heading back to shore, forcing marine scientists to take the decision to euthanize them with a gunshot to the head.

NSRI spokesman Craig Lambinon said, “many of them [the whales] came back onto the beach again and washed up on the rocks.”

According to Lambinon , all the remaining 52 whales would have to be euthanized.

Throughout the day a large crowd had gathered at the beach to observe the rescue efforts and to offer their help.

Many people were distraught as the decision to kill the whales was put into effect.

Nan Rice, head of the Dolphin Action and Protection group, said, “I feel quite sad, but it is the right thing to do. Unfortunately they [the volunteers] couldn’t do it [save them].”

Rice said she believed a “navigational error” had caused them to wash ashore.

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