VOLUNTEERS who had spent hours trying to rescue 55 false killer whales that stranded themselves at Long Beach, Kommetjie, in Cape Town wept hysterically when officials decided to shoot the animals on Saturday afternoon.
"We euthanised 42 and another two were euthanised during the night," said Mike Meyer, a marine and coastal management scientist.
Meyer said government officials and animal welfare groups held an emergency meeting after many of the animals that had been eased back into the water turned around and stranded themselves lower down the beach.
Meyer blamed adverse weather, big swells and a strong rip tide for the rescue operation's failure.
Fifty-five of the false killer whales began beaching at around 7.30am on Saturday.
The misnamed animals are actually the largest members of the dolphin family. Most pods are led by a big female and they will follow her if she swims ashore.
The beach was chaotic yesterday as Metro Police and others tried to prevent people witnessing the slaughter as Meyer walked from one animal to the next to put a bullet in its head. The sea ran red with blood as citizens wept hysterically.
Officials manhandled journalists trying to photograph the killings.
Meyer said the stranded animals did not stand much chance of surviving their ordeal, even if freed. He said that marine and coastal m anagement would have to develop a protocol to deal with future mass strandings.
About 10 to 13 of the pod are believed to have escaped.
Many dolphins and whales strand themselves. No one knows why but researchers believe that naval sonar can drive them ashore.