The following letter written by Nan Rice, CEO of the Dolphin Action & Protection Group, was published in the Cape Times today (26 March) , in response to the euthanasing of the false killer whales, previously reported as being pilot whales, beached on Noordhoek beach on Sunday.
I would like to comment on certain issues surrounding the euthanasing of
some of the whales that mass stranded on Noordhoek beach on Sunday last. The
whales, by the way have been positively identified as false killer whales
and not pilot whales.
When 45 false killer whales stranded on Kommetjie beach in 2009, a certain
group of radical people with little or no knowledge of what mass strandings
are all about, insulted volunteers on the beach, calling them ‘murderers’
because some of the animals were in such bad shape they had to be
euthanased. Trained volunteers who helped rescue the stranded animals, were
vilified on internet and in the media in an appalling fashion, which was
totally unacceptable. Now, at this mass stranding once again we have a
certain faction chanting that the whales should not be put out of their
misery and making it difficult for rescuers.
Those who are against putting down distressed stranded animals and making
statements to the media that South Africa is too quick to euthanase whales
when they strand, should get their facts straight and consult records of
mass strandings in countries such as Australia and New Zealand. Both the
aforementioned countries have more mass strandings of both pilot and false
killer whales in the world. At each and every one of these strandings,
animals die on the beach or have to be euthanased and in some cases whole
herds die, before they can be reached. Many restrand when put back and
statistics show that out of hundreds of whales that strand each year, the
rescue rate can be disappointing. The whales on Noordhoek beach and
Kommetjie were assessed by those who have expertise and were doing the most
humane thing possible to put these stranded animals out of their misery.
They do not need insults and derogatory comments thrown at them from an
My thanks to all those dedicated volunteers who helped rescue the whales. It
is a hard and exhausting task.
CEO: Dolphin Action & Protection Group
Some info about False Killer Whales:
False Killer Whales are the fourth largest members of the dolphin family. Like the pilot whales they are very gregarious, typically found in pods of 10 to 20 individuals and they grow to a similar length in size. Their flippers feature an “elbow” as do the flippers of the long finned pilot whales.
They are speedy swimmers and known for their breaching behaviour. Pods may be found swimming in large groups spread over a wide area. Like the pilot whales they feed on squid and fish.
Found worldwide in subtropical, tropical and warm temperate waters, they prefer the deep ocean but are known to strand themselves on beaches in large groups.
Females reach sexual maturity at about 10 years of age and males at about 18 years. Females ovulate once a year, giving birth to a single calf after 15 months. The calf is nursed for 1/12 to 2 years. The average life span of the males is about 58 years and of females 62 years.
In the reference book, Two Oceans, a guide to the marine life of southern Africa, (GM Branch, CL Griffiths, ML Branch and LE Beckley) the false killer whales are “prone to mass strandings. Possible causes are interference in echolocation by near-shore micro-bubbles, loss of orientation due to inner ear parasites, or disturbance of geomagnetic fields that may be used for navigation.”