Heartbreaking scenes as baby whale dies on beach
IT'S the sight no whale-watcher wants to see -with a beautiful baby humpback whale washing ashore and dying during the night.
But ironically, according to a popular Cooloola Coast tourism operator - it's a sign that things are steadily improving for the once seriously endangered species.
"Yeah it wasn't too good to see unfortunately," Tyron Van Santen from Rainbow Beach's Epic Ocean Adventures says of the calf's discovery on Teewah Beach yesterday.
"A couple of our team members saw it when they were making the trip from Noosa to Rainbow."
After alerting members of the department of environment and heritage protection, the whale was buried, with Mr Van Santen adding it didn't appear to be above ground for very long.
"Even just to look at it, it wasn't very big and it had remarkably clean skin - it mustn't have been very old at all," he says.
When asked to estimate about how big the calf was, he says it would've been only three metres long.
In his six years of working with Epic Ocean Adventures, Mr Van Santen has never encountered a beaching event himself.
However, he does recall an incident where another whale became entangled in netting - with the team working fiercely to free the animal.
"That this young one washed ashore at this time of the year is interesting too," he says.
The months of June and July are typically considered to be a more quiet period in the whale-watching season, but the sheer numbers of sightings has delighted tourists and business-owners alike.
"We've seen numbers of up to 15 or 20 in a day sometimes, which is great because normally they're heading to warmer waters to breed," Mr Van Santen says.
"It speaks to the population rising again which is really wonderful considering how few of them there were."
It's should come as no surprise then that incidents like these, in a bitter-sweet twist, will become more common as numbers continue to rise.
As for what you should do if you encounter a trapped or struggling whale on the beach or in the water?
"First of all, just respect that it's a wild animal and understand the risks that come along with that," Mr Van Santen says.
"The best course is to get into contact with the wildlife department and/or the RSPCA."