Surat: The recovery of a dead dwarf sperm whale on the coast of Dumas in Surat district of Gujarat on June 06 has surprised conservationists since this rare species was never sighted in the Arabian Sea before.
Local fishermen were mystified after they found the dead fish in the morning which resembled between a dolphin and a shark. Forest guards at the Surat range office rushed to the spot after they were informed about the incident, but the fish was already dead. It bore deep cut wounds and the body looked fresh.
Later, a group of wildlife rehabilitators from Surat also joined the forest department to investigate. Darshan Desai, Founder Trustee of PRAYAS also a member of the Wildlife Rehabilitators Exchange Network Programme of the Wildlife Trust of India said that the fish was still alive when the fishermen first saw.
The body was preserved in ice till next day for the postmortem at the government polyclinic. Meanwhile, Dipani Sutaria a marine biologist from the James Cook University in Australia who had studied sperm whale before, contacted Desai to assist in the investigation. She was in Gujarat on vacation and learnt about the incident from the local newspapers. Subsequently, a formal request was made to the Conservator of Forest about her interest in the investigation.
After studying the external characteristics, the postmortem report and inputs received from the biologist, the forest department arrived at the conclusion that it was a male dwarf sperm whale (Kogia Simus). The vital organs of the animal were found to be intact. Skin, otolith and other samples were collected for future study. The skeleton of the fish is also being preserved.
According to Desai, “The species was never sighted before in Gujarat. Even the IUCN database does not have sufficient information about the species and is considered to be very rare in the oceans.”
Dr. Prajna Paramita Panda, Programme Officer of the Wild Rescue Programme of WTI said that these species are mostly found in the continental shelf of the oceans, predominantly a deep water species. They primarily feed on deep water cephalopods and usually live far away from the seashores.