Sunday, December 23, 2001

Staff from the Pacific Whale Foundation and the Maui Ocean Center worked Friday to save a beached pygmy sperm whale on Maui's Maalaea Beach.

Whale put to sleep
after Maui beaching

The whale stranded itself twice
at Maalaea Beach near the
Pacific Whale Foundation

By Diana Leone

A pygmy sperm whale was euthanized yesterday morning, about 16 hours after beaching itself on Maui's Maalaea Beach on Friday.

Pacific Whale Foundation founder and president Greg Kaufman said the adult female whale came ashore about 3 p.m. near the foundation headquarters.

Staff from the foundation and the Maui Ocean Center supported the whale in chest-deep water for several hours until a veterinarian contracted by the National Marine Fisheries Service arrived, he said.

"The vet got there between 5:15 and 5:30 and gave the whale some steroids. It took off, headed slightly out to sea, then made a sharp right turn back into a rocky area," said Carole Berk, a naturalist with the Pacific Whale Foundation.

"There were probably about 30 people on beach applauding, and 30 or 40 more watching from the balconies of condos," Berk said.

"Our hearts sank" when the whale beached itself a second time, she said. "The minute we saw it heading in, we ran (to help it again)."

Maui veterinarian Greg Massey then sedated the whale, which was loaded into a tank and transported to the Maui Ocean Center for overnight observation.

Early yesterday morning the whale was struggling to breathe and Massey made the decision to put the whale to sleep shortly after 7 a.m. yesterday, he said.

A post-mortem exam may be able to determine the cause of death, he said.

Kaufman said the whale's beaching on Maalaea Beach is the fourth beaching of a marine mammal on Maui this year.

"In 22 years, I've never seen one of these animals (pygmy sperm whales) in the wild," Kaufman said. "I've only seen them on the beach. ... There have been four beachings this year. Is something going on? It does bring up a question in your mind when these deepwater animals come up on shoreline."

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