Suffocation likely cause of sperm whale death

By anne-marie.emerson@wanganuichronicle.co.nz, Anne-Marie Emerson

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A Wanganui whale expert was called in to assist with a sperm whale that died on a Kapiti Coast beach yesterday.

The body of the elderly male sperm whale, 12m long and weighing 45 tonnes, was discovered by locals near the Kapiti Boat Club on Paraparaumu Beach yesterday morning. Hundreds of people gathered to see it.

Wanganui-based Craig Bamber, a consultant on large whales for the Department of Conservation for the past 20 years, arrived at Paraparaumu yesterday afternoon. He was due to begin the task of removing the whale's lower jaw bone around 8pm, when the tide was low enough. The removal of the jaw bone was due to take around three hours.

Mr Bamber's particular area of expertise is the sperm whale, which due to its high numbers, is the most common large whale to strand in New Zealand. A large whale is one that measures 12 metres or more in length.

A post mortem examination would not be performed on the whale, but Te Papa's collection manager of marine mammals, Anton van Helden, said the cause of death was most likely the stranding and suffocation in the sand.

Mr van Helden said the whale was probably old, given the wear on its teeth and the scarring around its head.

Ani Parata, from local iwi Te Ati Awa, said the whale stranding was "a big deal" for the iwi.

Ms Parata would not say what the jaw bone would be used for.

- WANGANUI CHRONICLE

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