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China: Around The Nation

Dead sperm whale off China’s coast found to be carrying fetus, in what scientists claim is a world first

Marine experts say discovery could be important to conservation and protection of species

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 March, 2017, 12:21pm
UPDATED : Friday, 17 March, 2017, 12:21pm

A sperm whale that died this week off China’s southern coast was found to be carrying a whale fetus, in a discovery experts claim is a world first and could be important to the conservation and protection of the species.

The sperm whale was announced dead on Wednesday after becoming stranded at Daya Bay in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, following three days of efforts failed to guide it back to the ocean, mainland news portal chinanews.com reported.

It was only found to be carrying a dead fetus after scientists started dissecting the 10.78-meter-long whale in nearby Huizhou on Thursday night.

The 2.64 meter long male fetus weights 110.5 kilograms – making up only 0.07 per cent of its mother’s 14.18-tonne weight.

A marine life expert taking part in an autopsy of the marine mammal, Tong Zhenhan, said it was a world first to find a whale fetus inside a dead whale.

The sperm whale was first discovered by divers injured and stranded in fishing nets on Sunday near Huizhou Harbour. Marine experts, local fishery authorities and fishermen joined the divers to free the whale then used sonar equipment to try to “herd” it back to deep waters.

The whale’s tail fin was badly injured and marine experts believe its sonar system for navigation and food finding had also been damaged, so they gave up the rescue attempt late Tuesday night.

When its body was being lifted out of the seawater by cranes, a lot of blood was seen on its skin surface. It was later reported by news portal Kejixun that the whale’s mouth contained “a large amount of rubbish”.

The experts said the reasons that led to its death would only be able to be deduced in about a month’s time after a full autopsy is completed.

The mother whale would be made into a specimen to be used for research and conservation promotion purposes.