A majestic and giant Sperm whale was tragically found washed ashore with 5 litres of fishing rope in its stomach on Swartvlei beach, near Sedgefield in the Garden Route area on 31 August.

The Sperm whale was found stranded on the beach on Friday morning and the Plett Stranding Network along with the aid of Cape Nature and Oceans Research conducted an analysis and measurement of the mammal on Saturday, 1 September.

Plett Stranding Network, marine biologists Frikkie van der Vyver and Danielle Conry along with Cape Nature Wayne Meyer conducted the measurements of the Sperm whale for research purposes.

It is estimated the Sperm Whale weighed 30 tons.

Facebook/Garden Route Trail/Mark Dixon

The team removed the jaw of the Sperm whale for further study and to prevent trophy hunters obtaining its teeth and jaw bone.

Bayworld in Plettenberg Bay will house the whale’s jaw for future research and showcase at the museum.

Facebook/Oceans Research

An analysis was done of the mammal’s stomach contents to determine further insight into its death.

During the autopsy of the Sperm whale’s stomach, the contents revealed seven litres of squid beaks and five litres of fishing rope that were in different stages of decomposition.

A suspected ulcer was found in the stomach by Oceans Research field specialist Sasha Dines and Bayworld research associate Dr Sephanie Plon who gathered samples to determine the cause of the ulcer.

Facebook/Garden Route Trail/Mark Dixon

According to Oceans Research, a non-profit organisation, the beaching of the Sperm whale is a rare occurrence as they are scarcely found in the waters of the South African coast – the last beaching took place at Pearly beach in 2017 with the previous Sperm whale beaching occurring three years ago.

Footage of the stranded Sperm whale was captured below –

 

Facts on Sperm Whales – 

We have compiled a list of facts about the Sperm whale, one of the most gigantic mammal in the ocean.

1.Largest Brain 

The Sperm Whale possesses the largest brain of all creatures in the world and a unique substance called ‘spermaceti’ is found in their heads. Scientists are unsure why there is a large amount of this substance in their heads but biologists believe it accounts for the creatures buoyancy.

2.Deep Divers 

Sperm whales dive as deep as 3 280 feet underwater in search of their food source, squid. These mammals consume a ton of fish and squid a day.

3. Largest Tooths 

The giant mammal is the largest of the Odontoceti, toothed whales and is known for their disproportionate lower jaw. Their teeth are only found on the lower jaw with smaller teeth found in the upper jaw.

4. Whale pods 

Usually, Sperm whales travel in pods of 15 – 20 that often include females and their offspring, whereas males can be found swimming solo.

5. Vulnerable species 

The Sperm whale is considered vulnerable on the IUCN red list status of endangered animals. The sighting of these mammals is considered a treasured moment as they are rarely seen.

Picture: Facebook/Garden Route Trail/Mark Dixon

 

Article written by

Ishani Chetty

Ishani is a vegetarian who is passionate about social issues, the environment and current affairs.