The dead dolphin I posted about yesterday has been reclassified as either a dearf or Pygmy sperm whale by AFCD and Ocean Park Conservation Fund staff. The two-metre-long decomposing whale was found a few metres from the marine police base at Tai Hong Street in Sai Wan Ho.
It is believed it was a male dwarf sperm whale, but a genetic test is needed to confirm its species. The other possibility is its relative, the pygmy sperm whale. Both species are rare in local waters.
Dwarf sperm whales and pygmy sperm whales are extremely similar and usually indistinguishable when spotted at sea. They are widely distributed in tropical and temperate zones of all the world’s oceans.
The first and only recorded local sighting of a dwarf sperm whale was in 1991. There were four previous local discoveries of pygmy sperm whales, with the most recent in 2014.
A 3.3 m long, 386 kg whale was found by hikers on Friday (26th September 2014) on the rocky shoreline at Fung Hang village near Sha Tau Kok (NE New Territories). Due to the remote location of the site, AFCD staff decided to suspend the investigation, as night fell. Officers tied the dead whale with a rope to fix it on the beach and prevent it from drifting away during the rising tide. Experts joined the investigation the following day to identify the dead whale species and the cause of death.
Images by Ocean Park Conservation Fund. 9/2014.
The whale did not have any obvious fatal wounds or signs of infection, but had begun to rot and some of the gray-black skin was peeing off.
A preliminary veterinary inspection suggests that it is a pygmy sperm whale (Kogia breviceps).
The Pygmy Sperm Whale
Drawing showing relative size of a Pygmy Sperm Whale and a human
This species is normally found in deep waters several hundred to a thousand meters deep such as off Taiwan’s east coast. Hong Kong waters are only tens of meters deep, so pygmy sperm whales generally do not live or pass through Hong Kong. Most likely the whale got lost or was already dying while passing by Hong Kong waters and then drifted in to shore.
Skin , teeth, subcutaneous fat , heart, reproductive system and muscle samples were taken for further testing and City University of Hong Kong will receive the whale carcasses to produce bone specimens.
Map by Mingpao Daily.