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Majestic Bryde’s Whale hit by ship washes ashore in India, fishermen and forest officials bury it on shore

 Story by Sumesh Rajan

Mumbai: March 20, 2018

The carcass of a majestic Bryde’s Whale, weighing about 10 tonnes, and 60 feet in length which was apparently hit by a heavy sea vessel washed ashore on the beach near Thirupallaikudi village in Ramanathapuram district of Tamil Nadu in South India, on March 16. Thirupallaikudi is about 480 kms South of Chennai the capital of Tamil Nadu, and about 75 kms North West of the temple town of Rameshwaram.

Local fishermen out in the sea spotted the carcass one kilometer away from shore and alerted the wildlife officials from the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park.

“On receiving information from the fishermen, we went to the site. It was really a challenging job for us to get it on the shore. As the dead whale was colossal in size, we had to use steel ropes to pull the carcass to the shore. We took the help of local fishermen and youth in this effort,” said Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park Forest Range Officer S Sathish.

He further added, “It is surmised that whale had been dead for more than 20 days, and the stomach cavity of the whale was found exposed. Looking at the condition of the carcass, it can be said that the whale was hit by a heavy sea vessel.”

The whale, a fully grown female, weighed more than 10 tonnes, said Sathish.

Veterinary doctors inspected the carcass and found that performing an autopsy was very difficult. However, samples have been collected from the carcass for further analysis.

After collecting the tissue samples, the carcass has been disposed of in a large pit dug on the shore.

“We have a forest plantation land with casuarina trees on the shore and the carcass has been buried there utilising earthmovers,” said Sathish.

The Bryde's whale (pronounced ‘broo-dess’), is named after Johan Bryde who helped build the first whaling factory in Durban, South Africa in 1909. Sometimes known, appropriately, as the ‘tropical whale’, this is the only baleen whale species that live all year-round in warmer waters near the equator.  Bryde’s whale is a baleen whale belonging to the same group of blue and humpback whales. It has two rows of baleen plates to feed in place of teeth.

Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park officials say that Bryde’s Whale is a protected species in the country.

“There could be five reasons for such kind of accidents in which the majestic mammals get killed. One is due to injury in ship hit or oil spillage, two while trying to escape from their predators if it is a juvenile; third in a natural calamity like earthquakes under the sea; fourth while having changed their route at the time of ebbing movements in the sea; or fifth reason is due to noise pollution / sea pollution and getting struck by plastics. Of these, reasons 1 and 5 are due to human beings,” says Sathish. 


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