Baby whale diesKAILUA-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.
despite vets efforts
The sperm whale was rescued in
Kona after a tiger shark attack
By Rod Thompson
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.