Scientist condemns slaughter of stranded whale

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

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NASSAU, Bahamas (CMC) — A scientist with The Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation (BMMRO) says she remains “horrified' that someone used a knife to cut a three-foot-long fatal wound into the sides of a stranded pilot whale that beached over the weekend.

“Sadly, this type of body mutilation has been observed previously in The Bahamas on a dead dolphin, but I never imagined anyone cutting into the body of a live animal. I was horrified,” said Dr Diane Claridge, who discovered the three-foot long, three-inch deep cut on the whale's underside as attempts were being made to push the 11-foot young adult female whale back out to sea.

The cuts were reportedly deep enough to have cut into the muscle.

“There is absolutely no doubt that a knife was deliberately used to make this laceration,” said Claridge. “The cut was too straight to have been caused by rocks or coral, and the skin and blubber are not easily cut into, so it had to be done with some force. Additionally, the location of the cut on the whale's underside indicated the person was looking for ambergris.”

Ambergris is a substance that sperm whales produce in the stomach to help digest and pass squid beaks. Only sperm whales produce ambergris, but not all of them. They defecate the ambergris with the encased squid beaks, which floats at sea until is it washed ashore. During that time, its chemical properties change due to oxidation.

Ambergris is highly valued for its use in the perfume industry, but only after it has oxidised. Ambergris in the stomach or intestines of a dead sperm whale is worth absolutely nothing, the BMMRO stressed, adding that a whale's stomach is not located on its underside but under the ribcage.

Dr Claridge said that in addition to completely lacking compassion, “the perpetrator was obviously ignorant of both Bahamian law and how to find ambergris”.

The BMMRO said that mutilating a whale or dolphin is not going to result in finding ambergris of any value, but could result in a fine of between US$5,000 and US$25,000 and/or up to 18 months in prison.

“It is against the law to harm marine mammals in any way in The Bahamas. Anyone with information regarding who conducted this despicable act should contact the Department of Marine Resources or Marsh Harbour Police immediately,” the organisation appealed.

The BMMRO said that the appropriate response when someone discovers a stranded dolphin or whale, whether alive or dead, is to immediately call The Bahamas Marine Mammal Stranding Network to initiate the stranding response team.

“Despite our efforts to save the pilot whale, she died the following morning,” BMMRO said.

conducted a necropsy (an animal autopsy) and samples were collected to determine the initial cause of stranding.”

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