28/07/2006

Beached whale put down by vet

A young fin whale, which was stranded for three days in Larne Harbour in County Antrim, has been put down by vets after it beached near Kilcoan.

The mammal died at around 7.30pm yesterday evening after after receiving lethal injections. The animal was said to have been distressed and exhausted, and is understood to have had an infection.

A statement from the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) and the Environment & Heritage Service (EHS), said that the fin whale live-stranded on the Island Magee side near Kilcoan at around 2pm yesterday, and Brian Muscatt, a vet from Belfast Zoo who was on standby, arrived quickly on the scene and four intra-muscular lethal injections were administered to the whale at 5pm.

This is the largest animal to have been euthanased using this method in Ireland.

Yesterday, police set a 300m exclusion zone around a whale which had been stranded in Larne Lough since Tuesday.

On Wednesday, efforts by the rescue team managed to encourage the mammal into open sea, however the animal returned after being startled when two ferries left the port.

It returned to the shallow waters of the harbour, where it was unable to return to the open sea.

Fin whales are the second largest animal on the planet, second only to the blue whale.

Although this specimen was a juvenile, it is estimated to be around 35-40ft in length and may weigh upwards of 15 tonnes.

An autopsy will be carried out today, which will confirm beyond doubt the species identification, gender and can be used for “stock analysis,” which may give a strong idea as to which stock or region this whale may have belonged to.

After the autopsy the 10 metre carcass will be incinerated, as the tissues would be highly toxic following the lethal injections.

(EF/SP)

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