Image: Lost humpback whale calf
AP
Nicknamed 'Colin', the abandoned humpback whale calf was believed to have been injured in a shark attack before trying to suckle boats near Sydney, Australia.
updated 8/21/2008 8:56:36 PM ET 2008-08-22T00:56:36

An injured and abandoned baby humpback whale was euthanized by wildlife officials Friday after veterinarians determined it was too weak to survive on its own.

The 4.5-yard-long animal was guided close to the shore and could be seen thrashing underwater. Officials reached out to stroke the calf before others hoisted it onto a tarp. The whale was then pulled into a tent on the beach and gray tarps were hung to cover the operation.

Sally Barnes, deputy director-general of the New South Wales Department of Environment and Climate Change, said the whale would be given a sedative to relax it, then a lethal dose of anesthetic.

"Shame! Shame!" cried Brett Devine, a marine salvage and rescue worker who had hoped to feed the whale via a tube that lay unused on his boat where he watched the event.

Eight maritime police boats patrolled the waters to keep the public and media from approaching.

Colin's journey
The plight of the whale calf, which Australians have nicknamed "Colin," dominated news coverage since Sunday when it was first sighted and began trying to suckle from boats it apparently mistook for its mother.

Officials believe the 1- to 2-month-old calf was abandoned by its mother, possibly because it was ill. Wildlife officials said it appeared the whale had also been attacked by a shark.

It spent days among the yachts and other boats in the waters off north Sydney, swimming back to the boats each time officials lured it out to sea in the hope it would attach to a passing pod of humpback whales.

"As the calf is still being breast fed, we have no way of feeding or socializing it, so taking this humpback into captivity is not an option," the National Parks and Wildlife Service said in a statement this week.

Deteriorating condition
On Thursday, veterinarians and marine researchers who examined the whale found that its condition was getting worse and that euthanizing it was the most humane option.

"We have a whale whose condition has deteriorated rapidly over the last 24 hours, and who now experts are telling us is suffering, and we've had to make the hard decision to euthanize the whale," Barnes told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio Friday morning.

"Everyone is very connected to this animal and it's a very emotional decision," she said, likening the animal to a family pet that had been adopted by many in Sydney over the last week.

She said officials had sought national and international advice on how to help the lost whale but its condition had become too poor to treat.

Some Australians have accused wildlife officials of not doing enough to help the calf and not trying to feed it. A few people designed feeding mechanisms, many gave advice, and some journeyed to Pittwater Inlet just to watch the lonely calf.

Longing for his own
On Thursday, Aboriginal whale whisperer Bunna Lawrie tried to soothe the listless animal. Adorned with feathers on his head and white paint markings on his face, Lawrie reached into the water to stroke Colin while singing a humming, tongue-rolling tune.

But after a few minutes the whale swam away to nuzzle a nearby yacht.

"He's missing the big fellas," said Lawrie, whose visit was broadcast on Channel 10 television.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Whale mistakes yacht for mother

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