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Beached whale on Maui deemed too ill to live


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POSTED: Sunday, May 24, 2009

Scientists euthanized a pygmy killer whale that had beached itself on Maui Friday after they determined the animal was too ill to survive, a federal spokeswoman said.

The killer whale, about the size of a dolphin, beached itself near the breakwater in Maalaea Friday morning, said Wende Goo, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spokeswoman.

Working with lifeguards, officials put the animal on a tow board and took it to the Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

Scientists took a blood sample of the whale and found that it had a low white blood cell count, usually an indication that the animal had been sick for a long time, Goo added

“;After examination, the animal was deemed to be unreleasable,”; she said.

A necropsy was performed, but results won't be released until later this week, she said.

Goo said the animal was believed to be from a pod of about five whales that had been lingering off the coast near Kihei for several weeks.

“;Usually when marine animals mill about close to shore, it's because one or more of the animals are ill,”; she said.

On Friday, the pod was no longer in the area.

Charles K. Maxwell, Sr., a cultural practitioner and Hawaiian priest, said he chanted for the whale at the scene. He said marine animals provided nourishment to ancestors and are sacred to native Hawaiians.

Maxwell said he saw people supporting the whale in the water, wetting it down and trying to comfort it.

“;It was alive, the blowhole was blowing air,”; he said. “;I spoke to the group. I said I can hear him asking to be returned to the ocean because that's where it belongs. It's a spiritual thing.”;

Maxwell asked that the body of the animal be returned to the ocean, but was told it wouldn't be possible.

“;I don't feel good about them euthanizing the animal,”; he said. “;They should have let it die naturally and then take it back to the ocean.”;