Tuesday, August 14, 2001

From left, marine mammal experts Bill Wolden, Drew
Scullion and Justin Viezbicke fed the baby sperm whale
yesterday that beached itself in Kailua-Kona. The newborn
female was spotted on a reef near Banyans surf spot off
Keauhou on Sunday and was pulled into a pond by local
spear-fishermen. The whale was transferred yesterday to
a holding tank at the Natural Energy Lab of Hawaii in
Kona, where veterinarians were assessing its ability to
survive on its own. But the whale died early last night.

Baby whale dies
despite vets’ efforts

The sperm whale was rescued in
Kona after a tiger shark attack

By Rod Thompson

KAILUA-KONA >> A baby sperm whale, rescued Sunday by a Kona fisherman and numerous volunteer helpers, died at 6:55 p.m. yesterday at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii.

The death followed efforts by two veterinarians to save her.

The story began with a flurry of blood and water and ended with the sadness of many people who tried to save the baby.

At about 2 p.m. Sunday, spear-fisherman Sam Kalele saw sharks and blood in the water offshore from the Kona Bali Kai Resort south of Kailua-Kona and realized two tiger sharks had chased a baby whale onto a rocky reef.

"The whale seemed to launch himself onto the rocks. The wave picked him up and flipped him over," Kalele said.

Then Kalele and another man grabbed the whale -- a female -- and hauled her by the tail into a 3-foot-deep tide pool.

The blood he saw was from a gash on the baby's head, Kalele said.

Volunteers from the shore waded into the water to help hold the baby up.

State Department of Land and Natural Resources agents, posting warnings signs about a shark in the area, heard about the whale and helped.

They found a tarpaulin and helped place it under the baby for support. People took turns supporting the whale, eight to 10 at a time, said DLNR agent Charles Nahale.

Oahu veterinarian Dr. Robert Braun arrived at about 8 p.m. to find people still in the water, despite their feet being stabbed by the spines of wana, or sea urchins. "They were a lot of tough people," he said.

Braun took blood samples and sent them to Kona Community Hospital, which determined that the whale was dehydrated, low in blood sugar because she had not been nursing, and a little anemic.

The DLNR provided a pickup truck, volunteers from the Dolphin Quest swim-with-dolphins program located a mattress, and Uwajima Fisheries at the Natural Energy Laboratory agreed to hold the whale in an 18-foot-diameter tank.

At about 2 a.m. the volunteers lifted the 10 1/2-foot-long, 1,200-pound baby into the pickup, onto the mattress, for the ride to Uwajima, Braun said. Yesterday, she was transferred to a larger tank, where she died at the end of the day despite the veterinarians' efforts.

Sperm whales, an endangered species, usually stay several miles out to sea. Why was the baby inshore, separated from her mother?

"These strandings take place for a reason," Braun said. In this case, "the reason is not apparent," he said.

A pod of sperm whales was spotted five miles out to sea yesterday, said DLNR officer Lenny Terlep.

There was no way to know whether the baby came from that pod.

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2001 Honolulu Star-Bulletin