A baby humpback whale which was rescued after beaching off Australia's east coast this week will be put down after failing to find its mother and stranding itself again.
The one-week old calf was found on Moreton Island on Wednesday, two days after it was dragged out to sea by rescuers at Surfers Paradise beach on the Gold Coast.
"It's been a very sad morning for everyone involved in this operation who helped to give the young calf the best chance of survival by getting him into the ocean so he could have the best possible chance of being reunited with his mother," said Trevor Long, who led the rescue.
Long, from the SeaWorld marine park, said the whale would not have been able to survive long without receiving nourishment and protection from its mother.
The beaching of the baby whale sparked keen interest, with several thousand people gathering at Surfers Paradise on Monday to watch the rescue operation.
But rescuers had been aware that getting the animal back in the water was only the first step, and that a reunion with its mother was critical for its survival.
"You've got an animal that's just like a human baby. It's dependent on its mother," Tangalooma Wild Dolphin Resort director Trevor Hassard said.
(c) 2011 AFP