Debate in Fla. over fate of stranded whale

Aug. 18, 2011 at 1:00 PM
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KEY LARGO, Fla., Aug. 18 (UPI) -- A wildlife advocate says he is urging euthanasia for an ailing whale stranded in the Florida Keys nearly four months ago.

Russ Rector is leading a drive to euthanize the 12-foot-long female pilot whale currently undergoing rehabilitation at the Marine Mammal Conservancy in Key Largo, The Miami Herald reported Wednesday.

The 20-year-old whale is doomed and should be put out of its misery, Rector said.

"It's time to end the circus," said Rector, the founder of the Dolphin Freedom Foundation in Fort Lauderdale. "If this had been a dog or a cat it would have been put down months ago."

The whale, though recovered from pneumonia, suffers from scoliosis, or curvature of the spine.

"This animal is suffering," Rector said. "You've got to face reality here. They're deluding themselves that she's going to get better."

Officials at the mammal conservancy say they disagree.

"This place is about rehab, it's about life, and this animal is doing fine," director Robert Lingenfelser said. "We're not putting this animal down."

A National Marine Fisheries Service official said the whale's condition is improving.

"The animal is actually doing very well right now," said Erin Fougeres, stranding program administrator for the service's southeast region. "It's made significant progress in the past month."

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