During a recent visit to Bird Island (Lambert’s Bay, West Coast) I was surprised to see the skeleton of a Cuvier’s Beaked Whale (Ziphius cavirostris) on display – see photo below. It reminded me of the sad occasion (21st January 2007) when a Cuvier’s beached itself at Morgan Bay and finally succumbed after desperate attempts to assist it back to the ocean.
This record from Morgan Bay (see photos below) was the first (and only to date) for the natural history department since 1991. There is no significant sexual dimorphism with the species. They can grow to a length of 4.7 – 7m and weigh between 2 – 3.4 tons. Note the two cone-like teeth at the tip of the lower jaw (a diagnostic feature – these become worn down as the animal ages).
These whales inhabit tropical, subtropical and temperate waters, preferring continental slopes and deep oceans. There are no population estimates for the species. They are often alone or in small groups. They generally avoid boats, but can be curious by moving slowly close to vessels.