Sydney tries to save abandoned baby whale

Sydney tries to save abandoned baby whale

Sydney tries to save abandoned baby whale

Updated 19 December 2011, 13:45 AEDT

A baby humpback separated from its mother off Sydney's north shore is getting weaker.

The Defence Department could swing into action to help a starving whale calf in Sydney, but the state Government says military help may not save it.

Australian Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon says his department stands ready to assist in the effort to save the month-old humpback, which is stranded and starving after being abandoned by its mother off Sydney's northern beaches.

Mr Fitzgibbon says he has had a request about using Australian Defence Force fuel bladders to tow the whale out to sea, where some hope it would join other whales and find an accommodating, lactating female.

"Yes, well, we're all watching Colin," he said, referring to the whale named after the person who found it.

"He certainly has caught the imagination of most Australians".

Mr Fitzgibbon says he is waiting on more advice from his department.

State environment officials are not confident the baby whale can be saved.

In a desperate search for a food source, the whale - which has not fed for a week - has been trying to suckle yachts in Sydney's Pittwater where he remains, after an earlier failed attempt to get him back out to sea.

Despite a barrage of advice on how to save a whale, including the idea of using the defence force bladders to tow the whale, no humpback had ever been successfully maintained in captivity.

Ron Ling, the president of the whale rescue organisation ORCA, says euthanasia should be a last resort.

"Every other option needs to be explored and it's got to be realistic," he said.

"It's great to have all these ideas of being able to do things but it's got to be realistic and it's got to be achievable.

"The worst thing you could do is to prolong suffering with the animal.

"No-one wants to see that happen at all".

But an international law professor says it may be illegal for authorities to euthanise the abandoned calf.

Professor Donald Rothwell from the Australian National University says there is no provision or precedent under NSW law to put down the protected species.

He says an order could be possibly be granted under the NSW National Parks Act, but that would send the wrong message to the international community about whale conservation.

"One of the important issues which should cause concerns here is that humpback whales are the whales that Australia has particularly taken a strong position with in terms of their protection and conservation at the international level," he said.

"I think the Japanese would view with some interest Australia granting a permit to actually legally kill a whale that's in Australian waters".