Whole day needed to bury 20-ton whale

The Henties Bay municipality acted very swiftly and has buried the dead humpback whale which stranded on Monday at Solitude, about one kilometer south of the town. The whale weighed close to 20 tons – it took the entire day to bury the carcass of this marine mammal.

According to Simon Elwen of the Namibian Dolphin Project (NDP), it was a female humpback whale which was 12.9 meters long. “It was a young adult and probably between two and four years old,” he explained.
He added the whale stranded alive. “The cause of death is unknown, as there were no signs of external injury beyond scratches received presumably during the stranding process itself,” he said.
Elwen also noted that the whale was very skinny. It can be attributed to the fact that the whale was on its southwards migration and has possibly not eaten for several months whilst on the breeding grounds. “Starvation may have played a pivotal role.” “Timing suggests it was on its southward migration”, according to Elwen.
He explained high die-offs of humpback whales from “nutritional stress” have been reported in several populations and seem to be linked to the large size of the recovering populations. “The population has recovered so much, they are battling to all find food,” he said.
The latest stranding is the sixth stranding of a humpback whale along the Namibian coastline reported this year. The most recent one does not seem unusual, compared to the other incidents. According to the NDP the previous stranding’s occurred in the beginning of the year which is a very high peak compared to previous years. Humpback whales are usually sighted along the Namibian coastline between July and September (migration) and between December and February (summer feeding).
According to Henties Bay’s traffic chief Johannes Makina, the municipality was advised to bury the whale as it died in the municipal area. “It was already smelling really bad on Tuesday”, Makina said. The municipality used a front-end loader and a grader to complete the task.
A hole of eight meters deep and twenty meters wide was excavated. “It still took us the whole day to bury the animal. It was really heavy,” he said. It was the first time the municipality had to bury a stranded animal.
According to eyewitnesses the humpback whale stranded alive and was still alive by 10:00 on Monday morning. Curious residents saw the animal early in the morning and photos posted early show some people actually climbing on top of the stranded whale.

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