In a rare occurrence last week a sperm whale washed up on a NSW beach – and in a “disgraceful” act, one person mutilated the carcass.
The Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia (ORRCA) was alerted to the beached whale on Friday off Patchs Beach on the far north coast of NSW.
Though the sperm whale was stuck in the shallows, it was still breathing. But by the time help arrived, the whale had died.
Jools Farrell, the Vice President of ORRCA, told Yahoo News Australia the whale drowned because it was on its side and water went into its blowhole, causing the mammal to drown.
“It’s quite unfortunate, but it’s nature,” she said.
The whale’s carcass remained on the beach and in the dead of night, someone hacked off the animal’s jaw.
“They waited until the tide had gone down,” she explained.
“The whale’s head was on the sand and they’ve come in overnight with a chainsaw – which is what you need – and they have taken a part of the jaw during the night.
“Which is an absolutely disgraceful, disrespectful act,” she said.
Ms Farrell said there is an obvious motive behind the mutilation: money.
She likened it to elephant or rhino poaching, as their ivory tusks can fetch large sums of money. Sperm whale teeth are valuable, as they are also ivory.
“You can get a substantial amount of money on the black market, or I think they call it the ‘dark market’ now,” she said.
“We are pretty sure that is the reason that they would come in and take what they could take.”
It’s quite rare for sperm whales to end up on a beach, as they are deep sea mammals, Ms Farrell said
“But if a sperm whale does come up on to a beach, well that’s the first thing the authorities are concerned about - people coming in and taking the jaw.”
Ms Farrell again condemned the act of hacking off the whale’s jaw, saying it showed a lack of disrespect for the whale.
She described the sperm whale as an “amazing creature” adding it weighed in at 54 tonnes and measured some 17 metres long.
“It was a fully grown adult sperm whale and they are a vulnerable creature,” she said
“They’re just the most magnificent creatures, and it’s sad to start with that it beached, was alive and then passed away, and to come in and just hack away at its jaw is just despicable.”
As Ms Farrell spoke to Yahoo News Australia on Wednesday, the sperm whale was being removed from the beach and was going to be taken to landfill.
What to do if you come across a beached sea creature?
ORRCA look after several marine creatures including dolphins, whales, seals and dugongs, and Ms Farrell said it is important for people to report any beached creatures.
The NSW-based volunteer-lead organisation has a 24-hour rescue line, where beachings can be reported.
Ms Farrell also warned it is imperative to stay away from any animal which has washed up on the beach.
“Especially if it’s a deceased animal, there is a legal 100 metre distance that you need to stay away,” she explained.
She also said you shouldn’t touch a beached creature, as they can carry diseases or if a heavy mammal is rolling around in the water and it rolls on you, it could be fatal.
Dead sea creatures also attract sharks, as the sperm whale in Patchs Beach has, which is even more of a reason not to get in the water if there is a beached creature.
“They [sharks] can sense it, they can smell the water and it’s basically their food, so it is to be expected,” she said.
“So that's why people should stay out of the water, especially if the animal is still on the beach.”
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.