A melon-headed whale died this morning after beaching itself on the sands along the eastern coast of Trinidad, despite repeated attempts by rescue workers to return the creature to safety.
Belonging to the oceanic dolphin family, melon-headed whales typically swim in deep waters, making sightings by humans an uncommon event. According to local game wardens, this particular melon-headed whale most likely swam to shore because it was suffering some type of distress.
The seven-foot-long creature was first spotted on Manzanilla beach early yesterday afternoon.
Officials were notified of the distressed melon-headed whale and launched a rescue mission that lasted throughout Thursday and into Friday.
Although professional game wardens from the local Forestry Division made numerous attempts at guiding the animal back to the ocean, the melon-headed whale repeatedly returned to shore.
The rescue team made every attempt to save the animal, as crowds of people from the nearby village gathered in the growing darkness to watch the whale’s progress.
Many of the spectators tried to keep the animal comfortable, using buckets of seawater to keep its skin moist.
Despite the best efforts of all involved, the melon-headed whale died shortly after midnight on Friday.
According to Jack Kisto, a game warden who was among the rescuers, the melon-headed whale was acting on instinct when it continually beached itself on the Trinidad shore. Typically swimming in groups, a whale that becomes separated will often swim to land. The same holds true for the species when it senses it might be sick or dying.
Kisto explained how rescue attempts are not always the best option for the creature:
“Yes we want to help, but at the same time, we are still putting stress on the animal. You can’t just touch or take pictures or shine bright lights on it. This is a sea creature and it is not accustomed. We need to be careful and gentle because we don’t know how we can affect them.”
Melon-headed whales get their amusing name from the rounded cone-like shape of their skulls. The creatures are also sometimes referred to as electra dolphins or blackfish. Watch below to see what melon-headed whales look like as they swim in their natural habitat:
At this time, what caused the beached melon-headed whale to die is unknown. The creature has reportedly been transferred to the University of the West Indies School of Veterinary Medicine where the exact cause of death will be determined.
[Image by Shutterstock]