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Baby 'pygmy' sperm whale found dead

Bermuda Sun

By Sarah Lagan - Sub-Editor/Writer
Wednesday, July 24th 9:20 a.m. 

BS_130724_1a.jpg
Washed up: The pygmy whale, or possible dwarf sperm whale, that was
spotted off
 Nonsuch Island on Sunday. *Photo supplied

What is believed to be a baby pygmy sperm whale was found washed up dead in the shallows off Nonsuch Island.

The sighting was reported to the Bermuda Museum, Aquarium and Zoo which has performed an necropsy on the four-foot mammal and has disposed of the body.

The aquarium heard about the discovery from Terrestrial Conservation Officer for the Department of Conservation Services Jeremy Madeiros who had received a call about the discovery from a member of the public on Sunday morning.

Patrick Talbot, curator for the aquarium and zoo, told the Bermuda Sun: “We responded to Jeremy’s call, went out to Nonsuch and found a male baby whale that had washed up on to one of the beaches. It had maybe been dead only a day or two. 

“We knew it was a baby by the size of it — there are no adult whales that small. We think it is a pygmy but it could also be a dwarf sperm whale which are slightly smaller. 

“Staff were mobilised and we did a necropsy at the aquarium. We have no cause of death — we believe it was a neonate which means a newborn or not long after birth which could be a few weeks. There were no major injuries just some scratches which could have happened post mortem. We don’t know how it died, the stomach was empty so it probably hadn’t been feeding for very long. It’s teeth hadn’t protruded from the jaw so it would have been still nursing. This is an animal that most likely lost its parent. We took tissue samples and they will get sent off to experts who will give us a little bit more information but that is a slow process.”

Seal sighting

Last week there had been two reports of a seal being spotted in the same area which Mr Talbot said could have been mistaken for the whale. “It is entirely possible,” he said. “But one report said the animal had whiskers — without actually seeing the reported seal it is hard to say ‘yay’ or ‘nay that’s what it was’ but it certainly makes sense that they might have spotted this baby whale.”

The pygmy sperm whale is one of the most common types of whale to become stranded on Bermuda’s shores, there are sightings every few years according to Mr Talbot.

“We had an adult wash ashore in 2007 that was alive in Ely’s Harbour but it passed away within a few days of us trying to bring it back. There was one sighted inshore in 2010. 

“As far as I know this is the first juvenile we have had here. They are pelagic — they are found in the Atlantic so they are not uncommon offshore from Bermuda especially because they feed on things like squid. We are a pinnacle in the middle of the ocean and so there is food for them to feed on.”