Info: Australian Whale Free at last

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Mon, 25 Nov 1994 09:26:29

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Date: Fri, 25 Nov 1994 09:25:09 -0500 (EST)
From: WHE_WILLIAM@flo.org
Subject: Info: Australian Whale Free at last
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From:	SMTP%"MARMAM@UVVM.BITNET" 24-NOV-1994 18:36:34.24
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Subj:	Australian whale freed
 
Date:         Thu, 24 Nov 1994 03:50:00 UTC
Reply-To:     Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Discussion
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From:         r.mallon1@genie.geis.com
Subject:      Australian whale freed
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Australian whale freed
By BILL PERRY
   SYDNEY, Nov. 24 (UPI) -- A real-life "Free Willy" story has unfolded
in Australia as rescuers succeeded Thursday in freeing a huge whale
trapped in a river for three months by a partly submerged sandbar.
   In a last-ditch operation to save the stranded mammal, rescuers
attached inflatable pontoons to its sides in a unique cradle which
floated it over the sandbar and into the open sea, where it swam to
freedom, wildlife officals said.
   The Parks and Wildlife Department was enthusiastic over its new
pontoon technique, claiming it could now be used worldwide to rescue
similarly stranded mammals.
   Department officials said the whale would surely have died because it
looked very sick, had suffered extreme weight loss and numerous deep
pock-marks were developing in its skin. They said from their
observations the whale had not been feeding for about two weeks and was
becoming listless.
   They believe curiosity lured the whale to swim up the Manning River,
at Taree, 210 miles (340km) north of Sydney on August 16.
   As the tide receded, the whale was unable to swim back to the open
sea and at his first attempt became stranded on the sandbar.
   Therafter, he defied all attempts to herd him back over the bar at
high tide as fear of the bar made him turn back every time he reached
that area.
   The inflatable pontoons were specially built for the last attempt,
when the plan was to secure the creature with nets while the pontoons
were attached to his sides and inflated.
   But after it was ensnared in the nets, it breached twice in what
rescuers said was an incredible show of strength, leaping high out of
the water, breaking free of the nets.
   In the end Thursday, nature again took its course. As rescuers were
to begin another attempt, using specially recorded whale sounds sent by
a Japanese television station to lure the whale over the sandbar, it
made its own push for freedom and again stranded itself on the bar.
   Unable to move, the whale meekly submitted to the attachment of the
pontoon cradle, was towed successfully across the bar and set free in
the open water.
   Rescuers cheered as it headed out to sea and away from the river. The
only people sorry to see it go were Taree business people, who said the
whale was the town's best-ever tourist attraction, bringing busloads of
sightseers to watch it cavort in the local river.