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22 April 2010

Elusive beaked whale stranded in Subic

SUBIC BAY FREE PORT—A rarely seen species of whale was stranded yesterday at the shoreline of barangay Cawag in Subic, Zambales, the first time that such a stranding of an “elusive” deep-sea creature was documented in the Philippines.

The whale, a male specimen of the Blainville’s Beaked Whale (Mesoplodon densirostris), was seen circling the area for two days, then ended up dead at the seashore on Wednesday morning, witnesses said.

Residents of sitio Matangib, located near the Hanjin shipyard at the Redondo Peninsula here, said they tried to push back the whale to deeper waters, “but it kept coming back to the shallows.”

The stranding was documented by authorities from the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority’s Ecology Center, the local office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and the Ocean Adventure Marine Park.

Dr. Leo Suarez, a marine biologist at the Ocean Adventure, said this was the first time for biologists to document the beaching of a Blainville’s Beaked Whale in the country.

“This is certainly a rare sighting,” Suarez said. “I believe this is the first time that a Blainville’s Beaked Whale has stranded itself here in the Philippines.”

He added that the cause of the stranding was not known, as the whale species is known to inhabit waters from 1,600 to 3,000 feet deep.

Suarez and the team from Ocean Adventure conducted a necropsy of the animal to determine the cause of death. Thereafter, the carcass was chopped off for an on-shore burial in the area.

The whale measured 4.8 meters long­—a typical size of an adult male—and weighed about 500 kilograms, the biologists said.

It required almost 20 men to haul the animal to the shore where the examination was conducted.

According to the MarineBio Conservation Society, Blainville’s Beaked Whales are “deep divers” found in tropical and warm waters in all oceans.

Strandings of the dense-beaked whale have been reported off Nova Scotia, Iceland, the British Isles, Japan, Rio Grande do Sul, South Africa, Central Chile, Tasmania and New Zealand.

The species got its name from what is described to be a unique, remarkable feature—the “extremely dense bones in the rostrum, which have a higher density and mechanical stiffness than any other bone yet measured.”

While widely distributed, the animals are rarely sighted at sea “due to their long dive times, deep habitat, and unobtrusive surfacing behavior,” the web site of MarineBio said. (Henry Empeño, Business Mirror)

In Photo: Earth Day visitor Marine biologists measure the Blainville’s Beaked Whale that beached in Subic, Zambales, the first known stranding of the species in the Philippines. The rare visitor came just day before the global celebration of Earth Day.

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