Dismembered humpback whale calf found at Rainbow Valley

Sadly the dismembered carcass of a humpback whale calf was reported to the East London Museum on Friday 19th August 2016 by George and Claire Kockott of Rainbow Valley (north of the Gonubie River, East London).

This record comes a few days after the sighting of 3 groups of humpback whales in the area (see post of the 15th August 2016) which included calves. The latter sighting was off the Kwelera River mouth a little way north of Rainbow Valley.

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George Kockott and his son Angus at the humpback calf whale washout just north of Gonubie (in the background). Note the tail on the left in the photo. Pic: Kevin Cole

Museum scientist Kevin Cole visited the site and identified the headless whale carcass as a humpback calf – identified by the serrated flukes of the tail which differ from other whale species which normally have a gentle curve on the trailing edge.

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The trailing edge of the fluke is serrated on the humpback whale (noted above) unlike other whale species which exhibit a gentle curve. Photo: Kevin cole

George Kockott had kindly collected skeletal material from the whale which  had washed up on a raised boulder beach close by (east of the whale remains). Investigating the area further he found the ear-bone lodged among the rocks (the last record for a whale ear-bone find reported to the museum was from Hamburg (Eastern Cape, May 2012).

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The ear-bone from the humpback calf remains found at Rainbow Valley. Photo: Kevin Cole

The remains will be curated at the museum and information about the stranding forwarded to Dr Greg Hofmeyr, Curator of Marine Mammals at Bayworld (Port Elizabeth). Siani Tinley, Chief of Marine Services of Buffalo City has also been informed.

It is presumed that the humpback calf had been struck by a sea craft and that a propeller had caused the the fatal injuries, mostly to the anterior portion of the body (initially) and it possibly rolled over to be sliced further. It may also have been predated on by sharks after its death. An alternate theory would be that the animal had died from other causes and had been floating when hit by a motorised sea craft.

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About East London Museum Science

Conservation Biologist East London Museum South Africa
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