Stranded Newborn Whale Calf Rescued in Australia

Photo: NOAA Photo Library / cc

When a newborn humpback whale calf washed ashore on a beach in Australia's Gold Coast early Monday morning, officials knew that time was of the essence to save the animal, and rescuers did not disappoint. Experts believe the infant whale, estimated to be just two weeks old, became stranded after losing contact with its mother. For hours, dozens of volunteers, and thousands of onlookers, flocked to the beach as rescuers raced to return the whale calf to sea -- and thanks to their efforts, the 1500kg baby now has a fighting chance at life.After the whale calf was discovered stranded on a beach at 1:00am (AEST) Monday morning, rescue personnel, including Sea World staffers and local lifeguards, sprung into action to return the fledging newborn to sea. While those ashore worked to keep the young whale's skin moist and cool, others patrolled the water in search of the calf's mother, on which the infant's life relies.

"Because these animals are 'velcroed' to their mum, they need a lot of nourishment from their mum," Trevor Long, spokesman for Sea World, told the ABC News. "It's highly, highly unlikely another female would take the calf on, so you've got to make sure you're making the right decision for the animal and not putting it out there to suffer or to be shark bait."

Thousands of spectators gathered along the beach as the rescue team brought in excavation equipment to assist in their efforts. Workers dug a channel through the sand and used a harness to coax the whale calf into the water. By late morning, rescuers managed to escort the exhausted animal back to sea, where, with any luck, it will become reunited with its mother.

Although the female has yet to be located by Sea World staff, rescuers are hopeful the mother and calf will find one another -- though until that happens, the animal's fate is out of their hands.

"However they can communicate for many tens of kilometres so if his mother is 20 or 30 kilometres away, she might be able to pick him up," Long tells The Daily Telegraph. "He may come back to the beach. We've done everything we can at this stage but at some point in time we'll have to leave the animal and let nature take its course."

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Tags: Australia | Oceans

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