Forestry Division workers Pretam Khemraj (left) and Kishan Ramcharan on the Manzanilla beach, on Trinidad's east coast last night. The men tried on several occasions to return the stranded whale to open water but failed. Photo by CARLA BRIDGLAL

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Beached whale euthanised

...melon headed whale comes ashore in Manzanilla

THE JUVENILE melon headed whale found stranded on the Manzanilla beach on Thursday, was euthanised by veterinarians shortly after midnight today, after it was determined it could not be saved.

Head of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network (MMSN), veterinarian Dr Carla Phillips, said that the whale showed several signs of a fatal illness. Phillips said "An animal that usually finds itself stranded is usually dying and the most humane thing to do is to euthanise them".

Officials had worked late into the night to save a melon headed whale that beached itself on Trinidad's east coast.

However, in the end, the rescue effort failed.

It was always an uncertainty whether the seven foot long whale (Peponocephala electra) would survive, since game wardens had reported that it was taken out to sea on several occasions but returned to shore.

The east coast at this time of the year is a nesting area for turtles, including the leatherback, but around 1:00 p.m. a beachcomber saw the distressed animal and alerted the local Forestry Division game wardens.

"We tried to return the whale to sea, but it kept swimming back to shore," game warden Pretam Khemraj told the Express.

He said he and three of his colleagues braved rough seas and strong currents as they tried more than six times to return the creature to the ocean.

Game warden Jack Kisto said it was instinct that kept the animal returning. "These whales travel in groups and if they get separated from the group, they tend to head to shore. Or when they are sick and feel like they might be about to die, they also head to shore," he said.

When the whale was discovered, Khemraj said the wardens searched the rest of the beach in case there were other beached whales, but saw none. They also tried to see if its pod (group) was anywhere near the shore, but had no luck.

A veterinary team took the carcass to the University of the West Indies School of Veterinary Medicine at the Mt Hope hospital where a necropsy was be done. The examination will continue on Monday.

- Susan Mohammed - susan.mohammed@trinidadexpress.com
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