dead whale washed ashore
entertainment-starved public--who were not bothered about the issue of
its origins--thronged to the beach to see the giant creature.
landing of a dead whale on Clifton beach a few days ago inviting
curiosity as well as controversy, leaving the experts undecided about
which family of whale it belonged to--Humpback or Fin whale?
entertainment-starved public--who were not bothered with the issue of
its origin--thronged to the beach to see the giant creature.
Wildlife Department, which took the possession of the dead creature and
conducted its dissection, declared it was a Fin Whale, while the World
Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Pakistan in the light of their research and
examination insisted on calling it a Humpback.
14-35 grooves are usually found in Humpbacks and the dead whale had 22
grooves on the throat and chest," says Dr. Ejaz Ahmed, deputy
director general of WWF-Pakistan, in support of their point of view.
to his findings, a Humpback whale grows to about 52 feet in length ;
while the washed up whale at Clifton was 48 feet in body length and its
flippers measured about 14 feet.
states that Humpback is a baleen whale that does not contain tooth,
rather filters feeder.
to a study, Humpbacks have hundreds of rigid strips made up of material
similar to human fingernails which hang down from the upper jaw all
around the mouth. These strips called 'baleen' fuse into wider plates
which may reach up to three feet in length.
ends of baleen are bristly and frayed and intertwined with the edges of
adjacent plates to form a filtering system."
have a cylinder shape flipper extending 50 feet and the dead whale had
48 feet long flipper. They can consume nearly a ton of food in a day's
time," informs Dr. Ahmed.
Fahmida Firdous, project officer, Marine Turtle Project of Sindh
Wildlife Department, who supervised the seven-day dissection operation
executed by about 11 professional butchers and their helpers at the
Clifton beach, has said it was a Fin Whale.
do not have whale experts with us but we are sure it was a male Fin
Whale. According to SWD total length of the dead whale, which weighed
around 10 tons, was 56 feet. This specie usually attains a length of 69
feet and weighs over 70 tons, and the recorded maximum length is 88
feet," she says.
Quddusi Kazmi, director, Marine Reference Collection and Reference
Center, University of Karachi, who visited the site to examine the
deep-water creature, has said both point of views should be respected.
size of flipper and number of grooves on throat and chest suggested it
was a Humpback. Fin whales have flippers relatively shorter in
size," says Dr. Kazmi.
the basis of apparent features like fins, snout and crest we are
determined it's a Fin Whale. But no matter whether you call it Fin or
Humpback it's a whale," comments SWD Conservator Munir Awan
both WWF-Pakistan and SWD have agreed that the whale washed ashore eight
kilometers of McDonalds restaurant on Clifton beach was a male.
dead whale sank into sand was found lying upside down due to which its
identification characteristics had perished," says Dr. Kazmi
to Fahmida, "a Fin Whale was found lying on rocky beach at Gaddani
Beach in May 1995. I attempted to have a closer view of its mouth to
determine its gender but the foul smell of the decomposed body did not
allow that and left me nauseous." Owning to foul smell of the
stinking body many butchers had refused to do the job and they hired
professionals on a charge of Rs. 500 and 300 daily to remove the flesh
skillfully and it took them a whole week to finish the job and
transporting it into pieces to the SWD office.
retrieved some meat, waste matter, intestines for examination and buried
the unwanted things in the sand off the sea. We invited different
concerned departments to join us but none of them paid heed."
of bones would take two months. Once the bones are dried they would be
dipped into chemical and then articulated into skeleton," informs
causes of death Quddusi says, "collision with a ship could have
been the most likely cause of death as the front fin of the dead whale
found in deep water in Arabian Sea usually travel in schools, so it
might have stranded from the school and hit by some passing ship.
Hunger, lack of food, injury, parasitic or any other disease are other
likely causes of its death," adds Quddsia.
could be external or internal but external parasites have remote
possibilities because Humpbacks' blubber or fat layer is 20cm thick due
to which penetration is not easy," she further informs.
breathe through a double blow-hole located on top of their heads.
Breathing is voluntarily and the nasal plugs found in the blow-holes
remain closed until forced open by respiratory contractions. Internal
parasites could have shrunk the nasal passage causing difficulty in
breathing and leading to its death," suggests Fahmida.
to Fahmida, the cause of death of the whale which might have died a
month before it was found ashore seemed to be natural; or some bullet
could also have hit it.
stranded whale has no marks of injury. So, possibly it might have died
naturally. Although the life span of a Humpback whale is 45-50
years," observes WWF.
Ali Shah, chairman, Fisher Folk Forum Pakistan (FFP) perceives the
pollution caused by oil tankers as the cause of its death.
evidence of numerous sightings and stranding of whales along the Karachi
coast in the past.
is called 'weesar' in local language which means it had been frequenting
our coast due to which locals gave it this name," explains Shah.
are interested in the display of its skeleton, different organisations,
including the Karachi Zoo, showed interest in retaining its skeleton.
But when we have provisions to do that why shouldn't we display it. We
would lend it for some days to the zoo so that a large number of people
could view it," says Munir.
appreciating the SWD has said, "In spite of lack of resources,
trained staff, expertise and the absence of previous practices of
handling such cases, they dealt with the case properly."
are not fish. They are cetaceans, warm-blooded marine mammals which
breathe air and nurse their young. Unlike fish, a whale swims by moving
its flukes (tail) up and down.
whale is the largest known animal ever to have lived on sea or land.
Individuals can reach more than 110 feet and weigh nearly 200 tons, more
than the weight of 50n adult elephants.
the fifth largest of the great whales is an endangered specie. The name
Humpback describes the motion it makes as it arches its back out of the
water in preparation for a drive. It has a stout body and very long
flippers. The head is rounded and bulky.
usually observed in four different colour schemes, ranging from white to
gray to black to mottled. Their undersides are pale to white.
are carnivores and filter feeder that filter feed tiny crustaceans and
small fish. They migrate to breed in tropical waters and much shallow
whales, also an endangered specie, are brownish grey above and white
below. The colour pattern is asymmetrical: the lower jaw is white on the
right side and dark on the left. Fin whales are second only to blue
whales in length but are more slightly built. The dorsal fin is strongly
curved and is about 60cm high.
Fin whales have an average of 85 throat grooves that extend to the
navel. Each side of the upper jaw bears 350-400 baleen plates. At
physical maturity males and females average 19 and 20 meters in length,
presumed that a population of Humpbacks breed off the coast of Oman, and
possibly the stranded whale came from this population.
Humpback whale was previously stranded near Port Qasim in 1984, and
later another individual was found stranded at Sandspit in late '80s.
skeleton of this specimen has been articulated at the Naval Museum in
Karachi for display.
Wildlife of Pakistan-All Rights