One whale died and three others were euthanized after the mammals beached themselves in South Carolina on Saturday.
The four pilot whales, found on Edisto Beach Saturday morning, were not pushed back out into the ocean because it would have prolonged the animal’s suffering, the Lowcounty Marine Mammal Network announced on social media Sunday.
“For a deep water species like this, or any marine mammal, to be weak enough to strand, there is typically a reason (illness, injury, etc). By pushing them back into the ocean is only prolonging their suffering and making them vulnerable to prey. The more humane thing is to end their suffering (through euthanasia by a local veterinarian),” the organization wrote.
South Carolina laws prohibit marine mammals from being kept in rehab or on display, and transporting them to Seaworld — which is the closest facility — “is a huge amount of stress on the animals of which sick animals would not survive,” LMMN said.
“These are always hard situations and decisions but sometimes better than just “giving them a chance” and prolonging their suffering because it makes us feel better. Think about what you would do for your sick dog,” LMMN said.
Initial findings from a necropsy — or autopsy — of one whale did not show obvious signs of death like illness or human impacts, the organization said in an update Sunday. Samples that will test for things including “viruses, biotoxins and histology” — which is defined as the study of tissues, according to Dictionary.com — will help scientists discover what may have led the animals to beach themselves.
“The fact that these animals were this close to shore coupled with the stranding events suggest something is happening and many organizations are working to determine the cause," LMMN said. “Just because we didn’t see anything grossly doesn’t mean it’s not there-tests are pending.”