A beached whale was euthanized Thursday near Tampa, Fla. before hundreds of onlookers, many of who were children.
The 30-foot sperm whale was reportedly emaciated when it was discovered and subsequently examined by biologists from the University of Florida and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The animal lives in deep waters, and it had reportedly came close to shore, prompting concern from officials.
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"It's obviously very thin and sick, but I can't really speak to what's going on inside the whale," Erin Fougeres, a NOAA Marine Mammal Biologist at the scene told CBS affiliate WTSP
Veterinarians, who were unable to determine the cause of the whale's condition, decided the most humane option was to euthanize the massive mammal.
Hundreds of onlookers watched as veterinarians administered a sedative and then plunged a six-foot-long needle into its chest to stop its heart, WTSP reported.
"It's horrible, really. I'm an animal lover and it's just so sad," Sue Sciara of Chicago told WTSP while holding back tears.
Despite the public's reaction to the scene, NOAA Marie Biologist Erin Fougeres told WTSP it was the most humane action they could take considering the circumstances.
"Although it looks large and scary, it is a very humane thing to do," Fougeres said, adding that the technique had been used on large whales before.
The sperm whale was subsequently towed away and will have a necropsy performed on it on Friday to determine what caused it to beach.
Sperm whales are found throughout the world's oceans, and are generally deep water sea creatures that live off giant and colossal squid.
Living up to 60 years, sperm whales can reach lengths of 67 feet and weigh up to 63 tons. They have the largest brains of any animal on the earth that weighs five times as much as the average human brain. It is also the largest toothed whale.
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