Sunday, January 20, 2008

A sad story of a whale

from w
Well there are many points of view it seems about the sad tale of a whale that was found, deceased, on the shore of Mali island. For me it is a sad, bad story, but for some it is a gift of many tabua - whale's teeth that can be later cleaned up and used for cultural purposes. The photo is of Lui Robinson and Waisea Makulau standing at the tail of the whale on Mali island. I cropped the picture from the one in today's Fiji Times. No one seemed to know why the whale died. Was it pollution, old age, or what?

Islanders discover dead whale
Monday, January 21, 2008

A 22 metre long whale with a belly about three metres high was found dead on Mali Island in the northern division at the weekend. Villagers say the whale was found lying on one side of Mali in Macuata. Waisea Makulau from Malau said the whale had been spotted swimming around the island since December 26. "That was Boxing Day and every time we go out fishing, the whale would come around but when it hears the sound of the engine, it disappears under water," he said.

"It used to enjoy the sea around Mali Island and near Malau and it was a thrilling experience to watch the whale freely swim around the sea." He received news of the dead whale on Friday from a friend on Mali Island. "A friend of mine that came from Mali told me that the whale was lying on one side of the island, dead. It saddened me and my friends because we had become fond of it when we sighted it several times swimming," Mr Makulau said. On Friday night, he and a group of men hired a boat to the site to remove 40 whalesteeth and sold most of it as tabua with the smallest for $300. When we arrived the whale already had this foul smell and it was difficult to go around it. But we wanted the teeth for tabua, especially in these hard times when we are all looking for money to support our families," Mr Makulau said.

He said they managed to remove 40 teeth from the bottom gum of the whale while the top set had all disappeared."We used a ladder to remove the teeth because the whale was huge," Mr Makulau said.

Yesterday thick oily substance covered the water where the whale lay. The substance was as thick and oily as ghee and covered a width of about three metres.

In Fiji whales teeth have particular cultural significance. Fijians from remote coastal areas wait for stranded whales. If there is no help available to assist the beached whale, they would wait for the whale to die naturally before the teeth are removed.

Update on Tuesday: from Fiji Times
WWF cautions against dead whale1605 FJT
Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Update: 4.05pm THE World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the global conservation organisation advises that precaution is taken when handling the carcass of the sperm whale that was washed ashore on Mali Island.

WWF said reports obtained from the communities on Mali Island and the Fisheries officers in Labasa, indicate that at this stage of decay, it was urgent to ensure the safe and immediate disposal of the carcass.

''There are environmental risks associated with the dead whale, but equally important is the safety of the surrounding communities,'' a statement from WWF said.

''Undoubtedly, the dead whale will have some potential of infectious agents transmitted from the animal to those who come into physical contact with it. We are advising that extreme caution is taken when handling the carcass,'' said Penina Solomona, Regional Marine Officer, WWF South Pacific.

''While the cause of its death is uncertain at this stage, reports from observers have indicated that the whale may have been sick or distressed. However, further analysis of tissue samples will be required in order to better answer some of the queries that we have about this individual, and consequently, sperm whale populations in Fiji.''

WWF will be working with the Mali Island communities and the Fisheries office in Labasa to properly dispose off the carcass.

This makes interesting reading in light of the stories from down near the antarctic where there is a stand-off between the Japanese 'scientific (?) planned slaughter of whales for research and the protests on the Sea Shepherd and the Australian government monitoring the whole episode.

(later - on Thursday) The villagers of Nakawaqa on Mali Island have burnt the carcass of the dead whale after pouring about 48 litres of benzene on it, as the most logical way of dealing with the health problem. I suppose some of the men are making substantial money as they clean and sell the whale's teeth that they approprated a few days ago - maybe up to $300 for each tooth!

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