Ian Chiron was in Noosa National Park in Australia when he heard a strange noise.
“I got out of the car and I heard the moan and I thought ‘that’s not right’,” Chiron told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC). “It was concerning because I could continue to hear it.”
When he looked out toward the ocean on Oct. 3, Chiron saw a pod of whales appeared to be gathered around a shark net, an unusual place to see them. So he called rescuers, he told the news outlet.
Other witnesses reported hearing the creature “crying” before contacting rescuers from the Queensland shark control program, according to The Courier Mail.
A Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Shark Control Program contractor released the whale calf from the net, a spokesperson from the department told McClatchy News in a statement. The contractor “confirmed the entanglement around 7 a.m.” The calf was released by 7:35 a.m, and it swam away and rejoined its mother.
Drone footage shows the humpback struggling before a rescuer grabs a handful of netting and pulls it off the creature.
Experts think the whale could have been trapped for several hours.
“There is a high likelihood that the young whale became tangled overnight, and was only reported once the sun rose in the morning,” Sea Shepherd, a nonprofit marine conservation organization, wrote in an Oct. 3 news release.
Before it was rescued, the whale appeared to be moving slowly, according to Taylor Ladd-Hudson, who filmed the rescue. The baby was on its own, and its mother was nowhere in sight.
“I have seen many whale entanglements (this being my 3rd year in a row at Noosa) and I normally keep my cool and emotions under control but this time I couldn’t help hide it. My eyes were watering and I started crying,” the 14-year-old wrote on Instagram.
The entanglement and rescue come just days after another humpback calf was rescued from a shark net about 20 miles south on the west coast of Australia.
Although both rescues were successful, many shared their anger with the shark nets on social media.
“Life literally pauses in anticipation watching this,” one person wrote on Instagram. “Knowing it was freed is assuring. ... until another is found entangled within days.”
“Shark nets have passed their expiry date,” another person commented. “Time has come to get the nets out now. Silent, indiscriminate killers.”
“These nets are absolutely disgusting, so heartbreaking,” a third commenter wrote.
Officials said the netting is being replaced and is expected to be operational shortly.