San Diego

La Jolla Beachgoers Come to Rescue of Beached Pygmy Sperm Whale

As of Saturday, the pygmy sperm whale calf was in critical condition, being cared for by veterinarians at SeaWorld San Diego

Bystanders, including children, came to the rescue of a beached whale Friday afternoon in La Jolla.

The pygmy sperm whale calf was spotted by several people attempting to beach itself near Scripps Pier at La Jolla Shores Beach, according to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department (SDFD).

According to SDFD Lt. Rich Stropky, people recorded video of the whale and made calls to local animal rescue organizations, including SeaWorld San Diego.

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Lt. Rich Stropky, San Diego Fire-Rescue Lifeguard Services Division
Many rushed to help the whale, including children after it beached itself in La Jolla.

With instructions from the experts, the group rolled up their sleeves and got to work.

"Basically what they did was they gave us directions, said, 'Hey, the best thing you can do is dig a hole, keep the water in it, put the mammal inside the hole, keep the skin wet,'" said Stropky.

He said children were eager to help the calf in need.

"Lots of little kids running to and from the beach, back to the water with buckets of water to pour, so they really did a great job tonight," Stropky added.

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Lt. Rich Stropky, San Diego Fire-Rescue Lifeguard Services Division
Bystanders saw the whale attempting to beach itself near Scripps Pier in La Jolla.

The lieutenant said it was just kids, but adults as well, who jumped in to help.


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“It’s powerful, and it’s supernatural," he told NBC 7, of the collaborative efforts.

He said SeaWorld staffers told the group it's rare to see a pygmy pilot whale on the beach.

SeaWorld San Diego animal rescue specialists took custody of the whale, taking it to the park to receive veterinary care.

On Saturday, David Koontz, director of communications for SeaWorld San Diego, said the calf was in critical condition. Koontz said the calf a female, who is only a few weeks old.

The mammal is currently being cared for in a rehabilitation pool at the park’s Animal Health and Rescue Center where veterinarians and specialists are evaluating its health.

"This is a very critical period for the calf, and at this time it is impossible to determine her long-term prognosis," Koontz said.

SeaWorld is coordinating its efforts on the whale with National Marine Fisheries Service, he added. The park released this photo of the whale on Saturday.

SeaWorld San Diego
The pygmy sperm whale calf, found beached in La Jolla, is in critical condition in a rehabilitation pool at the Animal Health and Rescue Center at SeaWorld San Diego.

Ed. Note: A previous version of this story identified the beached whale as a pygmy pilot whale. We have corrected the information and regret the error. 

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