Scenes like those of the rescue attempt to return the beaked whale that became stranded in the Thames in 2006 will be a thing of the past. New official guidelines will mean that rather than try and return these creatures to the sea, the option that will be used will be euthanasia.
Scientists have concluded that humanely ending the lives of beached whales such as sperm and beaked whales, is a more responsible and less cruel option for the mammals, due to the damage that would already have been caused to their bodies by being beached in the first place. Paul Jepson of the Zoological Society of London, (ZLS), stated that,
“Between 2002 and 2006, there were 30 sperm whales and 24 beaked whales reported stranded in the UK and none of them survived.”
Blood samples from whales that died have been analysed, and they show that the causes of death for the animals is a combination of muscle damage, dehydration, due to them being unable to obtain water through their food, and kidney damage caused by the release of myoglobin, the oxygen carrying protein that allows whales to swim deep underwater, into the bloodstream.
Under the new guidelines, if it is possible to return the whales to ocean-depth water within a short timeframe, rescue attempts will still go ahead. Tony Woolley of the RSPCA stated that,
“We now have a clear direction for those who respond to the strandings. The presumption will be euthanasia unless the animal can be refloated in a very short period of time into oceanic-depth water, which is extremely unlikely in the British Isles because of the logistics of getting animals to those waters in that time period.”