Category Archives: Whales

Dead Huizhou Sperm Whale Was Pregnant Female

China Daily reported that an autopsy on the sperm whale that became stranded in Daya Bay, in South China’s Guangdong province, has revealed the whale was pregnant. A crane hoisted the dead sperm whale out of the Harbor last Wednesday. 
A developing 110 kg male fetus, about two meters in length, was recovered.

“It is the first time that an unborn baby has been found inside a stranded sperm whale in the world,” said Tong Shenhan, head of the land and marine life research institute of Xiamen city, who participated in the autopsy.

He believed that the finding would be of significance to the protection and rescue of sperm whale.

On Thursday, a group of about 20 experts from the School of Marine Sciences of Sun Yat-Sen University, Hong Kong Ocean Park and other institutes, conducted the autopsy in Huizhou Fishery Research and Extension Center, in Guangdong, taking samples of skin, fat, muscle and blood from the adult sperm whale.

They unexpectedly found milk in the whale’s breasts and then a placenta 2.6 meters in length.

The fetus will also undergo an autopsy, which is expected to take about one month due to its difficulty.

On Sunday morning, fishery authorities in Shenzhen city received a report of an adult whale trapped in fishing nets in waters off Daya Bay.

After the whale was freed from the nets, authorities and zoologists tried to guide it back into deep sea. However, it continued to swim in shallow waters off Shenzhen and Huizhou cities. It was confirmed to have been stranded near a wharf Tuesday afternoon and died Wednesday.

Tong said that the whale, estimated to be about 5 years old, was healthy and had no visible injuries.

He does not think it was tangled to death by fishing nets but the cause of death will be verified in at least a month.

The animal, weighing 14 tons and stretching 10 meters long, was lifted by a crane from the water in Huizhou port on Wednesday and was transported to Huizhou Fishery Research and Extension Center.

Huizhou has invited experts to conduct research on the whale examining its physiological structure, molecular biology, zoology and pathology, to provide more scientific data and theory for the protection of the endangered sperm whale.

The autopsy on the adult whale will continue over the next two days.

The city also plans to preserve four specimens of the animal’s skin, bone, viscera and placenta.

Sperm Whale Injured By Fishing Nets Trapped in Huizhou Harbor

A sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) received serious injuries to its tail while caught in a fishing net, which have left it only able to swim in circles, according to news portal chinanews.com (14/3/17).

The whale may have also damaged its sonar system, meaning it cannot find its way back to deeper waters.
The 12-meter-long mammal was found struggling in waters near Shenzhen on Sunday, suffering from several gashes with a tail fin that had been damaged by a fishing net.

Local divers and fishery officials worked together to release it from the net and guide it back to open waters.

However, the animal was too tired to make it away from the shore, and ended up in Huizhou Port on Monday, mere meters from the land. Huizhou is about 50 kilometers away from Shenzhen.

Local officials and 30 experts from the Hong Kong Ocean Park and the Institute of Deep-Sea Science and Engineering under the Chinese Academy of Sciences are monitoring the animal. 

One expert suggested luring or driving the whale back to the sea by using whale sounds or those of predators.

However, the expert warned that the whale may have to be poisoned or blown up if rescue efforts fail.

Wu Gang, deputy director of the Huizhou Marine and Fisheries Bureau, said they will first try to treat the whale’s injuries and that euthanasia will only be considered as a last resort.

Sai Wan Ho Dead Dolphin Turns Out To Be Dwarf or Pygmy Sperm Whale

The dead dolphin I posted about yesterday has been reclassified as either a dearf or Pygmy sperm whale by AFCD and Ocean Park Conservation Fund staff. The two-metre-long decomposing whale was found a few metres from the marine police base at Tai Hong Street in Sai Wan Ho.

It is believed it was a male dwarf sperm whale, but a genetic test is needed to confirm its species. The other possibility is its relative, the pygmy sperm whale. Both species are rare in local waters.
Dwarf sperm whales and pygmy sperm whales are extremely similar and usually indistinguishable when spotted at sea. They are widely distributed in tropical and temperate zones of all the world’s oceans.

The first and only recorded local sighting of a dwarf sperm whale was in 1991. There were four previous local discoveries of pygmy sperm whales, with the most recent in 2014.

The Tai Po Whale of 1914 and the Taipo Whale of 2014

I found another ‘gem’ while looking through old HK newspapers:

A Whale Now!

A reader informs us that a whale 23 feet [7m] in length was seen in Tolo Harbour, near Taipo, on Sunday [11th of May 1914], and that the police, from a launch, fired three rounds at the mighty creature, which however disappeared.”

Taken from the Hong Kong Telegraph 13th of May 1914
Taken from the Hong Kong Telegraph 13th of May 1914
How strange to think that back then the first reaction on seeing a big whale, was to pull out a gun and shoot it!

It struck me as quite interesting, that Tolo Harbor near Taipo was also the site the stranding of a 42-foot (13m) Omura’s whale in March 2014 – almost exactly 100 years later!

Tolo Harbor is almost completely enclosed by land so any whale erring into it is bound to get confused, I think.

The Macau Whale Stranding Febuary 3rd, 1933

Sometimes it is very amusing and interesting to realize how different we see the environment now in 2015 compared to our attitudes the last century. A case in point is this gem of a news article from 1933 about a 25-foot (7.6 m) whale that stranded in Macau. Today, we would go to extraordinary efforts and spare no cost to rescue the whale and help it out to sea. Back in 1933 attitudes were a bit different, however…

“Much excitement was created in the little fishing hamlet of Tsam Mang Chin, not far from the Macao Barrier Gate, when a whale, 25 feet long, drifted ashore and was left high and dry on the beach when the tide went out.
The villagers were all activity, when the monster was sighted, and measures were promptly taken to prevent its escape. The whale was soon dragged higher up the beach, where it was killed, and operations to convert the oil and remains into cash were immediately carried out.

All day long, villagers from the surrounding country trooped into the hamlet to buy the whale oil and the flesh until nothing was left of the monster excepting the bones.

A fee was later charged for viewing the skeleton.

Some idea of the size of the whale may be gathered from the fact that a thousand catties [500 kg] of oil and twice the amount of flesh were sold by the captors.”

(Hong Kong Telegraph February 3rd, 1933)

These days, however, a “big whale” in Macau refers to big-ticket casino gamblers from mainland China. But with the anti-corruption campaign ongoing in China, the new “big whales” seem to be facing the same sort of steep decline that the real whales faced in the 20th century!

Taipo Whale Identified as Recently Discovered Omura’s Whale

A dead ten-metre whale that washed up near Tai Po in March has been identified as an Omura’s Whale specimen (also known as dwarf fin whale), a species that science knows very little about, reports Apple Daily.
In fact, until this discovery, only nine whales have been genetically confirmed to be of the Omura’s Whale species, which was discovered only in 2003.
Over the past nine months, researchers at CityU have been preparing the whale’s bones to be put on display on their campus. But due to the size of the carcass – it weighed 25 tons when it was first found – the process is still ongoing.
The backbreaking work includes soaking the bones for months and boiling them over 20 times.
CityU is planning on displaying the entire five-ton skeleton in front of its library.

Source: Apple Daily via Coconuts HK 23/12/2014

Featured image: Ocean Park Conservation Fund

Pygmy Sperm Whale Stranding near Sha Tau Kok

A 3.3 m long, 386 kg whale was found by hikers on Friday (26th September 2014) on the rocky shoreline at Fung Hang village near Sha Tau Kok (NE New Territories). Due to the remote location of the site, AFCD staff decided to suspend the investigation, as night fell. Officers tied the dead whale with a rope to fix it on the beach and prevent it from drifting away during the rising tide. Experts joined the investigation the following day to identify the dead whale species and the cause of death.

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Images by Ocean Park Conservation Fund. 9/2014.

The whale did not have any obvious fatal wounds or signs of infection, but had begun to rot and some of the gray-black skin was peeing off.
A preliminary veterinary inspection suggests that it is a pygmy sperm whale (Kogia breviceps).

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The Pygmy Sperm Whale

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Drawing showing relative size of a Pygmy Sperm Whale and a human

This species is normally found in deep waters several hundred to a thousand meters deep such as off Taiwan’s east coast. Hong Kong waters are only tens of meters deep, so pygmy sperm whales generally do not live or pass through Hong Kong. Most likely the whale got lost or was already dying while passing by Hong Kong waters and then drifted in to shore.

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Image: News163.com

Skin , teeth, subcutaneous fat , heart, reproductive system and muscle samples were taken for further testing and City University of Hong Kong will receive the whale carcasses to produce bone specimens.

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Map by Mingpao Daily.