On February 22, marine biologists in Brazil were baffled when they discovered a humpback whale that was beached “on a remote, forested island in the Amazon River,” reports Matthew Haag of New York-based newspaper The New York Times. Humpback whales should have migrated to Antarctica at that time of the year. However, discovering a whale 4,000 miles away from its migration ground made scientists even more perplexed.
Members of Bicho D’Agua, a conservation group, found the whale after tailing vultures that were flying over a mangrove on Marajo Island, an island in the Amazon. The scientists first saw the 26-feet-long humpback whale “lodged in thick shrubs and brush” around 50 feet from the shore. According to the government officials in Para, a northern state in Brazil, the animal had been dead for several days.
|Photo grabbed from The Independent|
President of Bicho D’Agua Renata Emin speculates, “We imagine it was floating and the tide took it into the mangrove.”
“The question is, What was a humpback whale doing in the month of February on the northern coast of Brazil? It’s unusual,” she adds. Scientists conjectured that the 10-ton mammal was “hurled onshore during a storm,” writes Tim Wyatt of British online newspaper The Independent.
Over the weekend, biologists examined the carcass during low tide. They looked for signs of how the whale died, as well as took samples for a necropsy. However, the humpback was too large and “in too remote an area to be entirely removed.” Bicho D’Agua hypothesized that the young humpback whale was separated from its mother before it died. “Depending on the state of decomposition, some information may already have been lost,” Emin states.
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She reassures that her colleagues are collecting as much information as they can and identifying the whale’s wounds and marks to determine if it was either caught in a net or hit by a boat. According to Wyatt, the humpback’s skeleton will be dismantled, preserved, and sent to a natural history museum in Belem city for further study.