Mon, Oct 26, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Whale likely killed by garbage

By Wang Chieh and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

National Cheng Kung University professor Wang Chien-ping, wearing cap, and his team perform a biopsy on a dead sperm whale in Tainan on Saturday.

Photo: Wang Chieh, Taipei Times

A sperm whale that was found dead, beached near the outlet of Pachang Creek (八掌溪) in Chiayi County on Sunday last week, might be another victim of waste produced by humans.

The whale was initially found beached on Oct. 16 on dunes at Dongshih (東石) harbor, and volunteers from by the National Cheng Kung University’s Marine Biology and Cetacean Research Center and Chiayi County’s Disaster Relief Association were able to tow the whale back to sea.

However, two days later, local fishermen discovered the carcass of the 15m-long whale on a shoal in an area south of the Pachang Creek estuary.

Trucks were used to tow the 23-tonne whale to the center, where it arrived on Friday last week. A research group headed by National Cheng Kung University professor Wang Chien-ping (王建平) performed a biopsy on the carcass with help from cranes.

Prior to the biopsy, the center was unable to ascertain what had caused the whale’s death, but there was a large wound on its back and a large bruise on its thigh and close to its tail, which might have limited its ability to swim, Wang said.

After performing the biopsy, Wang said the results confirmed his suspicions, as they found a large bundle of tangled fishing nets and plastic bags in the whale’s stomach, adding that the ball of garbage might have contributed to the whale’s death or weakened it as it would not have been able to feed properly.

The team yesterday continued to examine the head of the whale, taking advantage of a rare opportunity to come in close proximity with a whale of its size.

Although garbage might have caused the whale’s death, the center hopes to learn from its academic studies and research on the whale, Wang said.

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