On Friday 10 June 2011, a 2.97 m male Pygmy Sperm Whale washed ashore on Keurbooms beach in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa. The Pygmy Sperm Whale is one of three species of toothed whales in the sperm whale family. They are a pelagic species, which means they are found in open, deep water. Even though they are deep water mammals, they are very rarely seen out at sea. The weight of this particular specimen was not determined but fully grown adults can weigh up to 400 kg.
Their primary food includes squid and crabs and they have between 20-30 teeth. Not much is known about their breeding habits and their population numbers remain unknown. Pygmy Sperm Whales are mainly found in the temperate waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans.
The cause of death of this particular Pygmy Sperm Whale remains unknown. The Orca Foundation along with Port Elizabeth Bay World and Cape Nature performed a dissection on 14 June 2011 to determine the cause of death. Blubber samples were taken along with an analysis of its body and organs. Upon analysis, many parasites were found underneath the blubber however the parasites do not affect the health of the whale. The whale was bleeding internally and decay made it difficult to determine the exact cause of death. No shark wounds were found on the Pygmy Sperm Whale, however, abrasions, possibly from rocks, were found on the specimen. In 2010, four Pygmy Sperm Whales, of the same species, stranded on Robberg beach. Although Pygmy Sperm Whales are a rare sight, strandings are a common occurrence around the world.
If a stranded animal is found whether it be a bird, fish, dolphin or whale, dead or alive, please call the Orca Foundation on 082 782 4459 so that the animal can be rehabilitated and released back into the wild. For more information visit the Orca Foundation website at www.orcafoundation.co.za