At least eight short-finned pilot whales were found dead on a beach in the mangrove forest park near Serangan island in Suwung, South Denpasar, on Monday. The whales had been dead for nearly a week, according to officials from the Bali Natural Resource Conservation Agency (BKSDA) and members of the Bahtera Nusantara Foundation (YBN), an organization that focuses on the conservation of marine environment, who were at the scene.
“The whale is a protected species. Their cause of death would most likely be due to getting stuck in the strong currents,” said Budi Adnyana, the coordinator of animal protection at the BKSDA, Monday. “But this is a temporary conclusion because this is the first time this kind of incident has ever happened in the Mangrove forest near Serangan.”
Most of the whales’ carcasses were butchered by locals, but officials were still able to identify their species and estimate their proportions. According to official reports, three whales were about 2.5 meters in length and 2 meters in diameter, and the other five were estimated to be as large as 3 to 3.5 meters.
Adnyana said he regretted that people had begun carving up the whale, citing the 1990 law which requires the public to report beached whales to the nearest conservation agency, push them back to the sea or bury or burn whales found dead ashore.
“We realize that most people don’t know this law, but we hope the media can spread the information about these protected wild animals,” he said. “In the case of these pilot whales, we can’t evacuate or incinerate them because they’re already decomposing and are all tangled up in the mangrove trees roots.”
Reports on the whales did not reach officials hands until Sunday evening, as YBN was the first to receive the report and immediately forwarded it to the Bali BKSDA, which arrived on the scene Monday.
Wana, a fisherman from Pesanggaran, Denpasar, claimed to be the first person to see the whales. According to his testimony, he saw nine beached whales about a week ago, some of which were still alive. Claiming he had been unaware he was breaking the law, he said he decided to leave the whales alone, hoping that the tide would carry the large mammals back to the ocean.
“I don’t remember what day or what time it was when I saw the whales though,” he said during the BKSDA’s inspection of the area. He said he had found all of the whales dead two days after he first had sighted them.
YBN Director Wira Sanjaya urged a coordinated plan of action to deal with animals stranded on beaches, saying that the incident was an annual phenomenon.
“In January this year alone there have been four dead beached whales in Bali. Considering the frequency, I’d say we need a database on the mammals that live and die off Bali’s shores. This data could be very useful in managing Bali’s coastal areas,” Wira said.
The short-finned whale is one of two cetacean species – aside from the long-fined pilot whale – included in the Globicephala genus, which is part of the oceanic dolphin family, although their behavioral patterns are more akin to those of whales.
Short-finned pilot whales are very sociable and are rarely seen alone. In Australia, pilot whales often strand themselves on the shore, a phenomenon that still puzzles scientists today.
A 10-meter humpback whale was stranded on Yeh Matan beach in Selemadeg, Tabanan, on Jan 2 this year. Two weeks later, on Jan. 14, a sperm whale 12-meter in length and 1.5 meters in diameter was found on Batubelig beach in Kerobokan, Badung.
Source: The Jakarta Post – February 3, 2009
By Pariama Hutasoit, Denpasar