Rare whale washes ashore in Victoria

By AG Staff Writer May 3, 2016
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A whale that died on a beach in Victoria at the weekend may be a rare dwarf sperm whale – the first time the species has ever been recorded in the state.

A WHALE THAT died on Saturday after being stranded at Red Bluff, Lake Tyers Beach in East Gippsland may have been a rare dwarf sperm whale.

If so, it would be the first time the species (Kogia sima) has ever been recorded in Victoria.

Fire management staff on their way back from controlled burning operations were called to retrieve the 2.4m female whale, which died soon after stranding itself on the beach, according to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) in Gippsland, which made the report on its Facebook page yesterday.

A post-mortem was conducted by staff from the DELWP and the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources – with early indications leaving them “fairly confident” the whale is a dwarf sperm whale. 

dwarf sperm whale

Fire management staff were called to remove the whale from the beach. (Image courtesy DELWP Gippsland)

World’s smallest whale

The dwarf sperm is the smallest of the whales – even smaller than some dolphins. It has a distinctive underslung jaw and a more pointed snout than the pygmy sperm whale, from which the dwarf sperm was recognised as a distinct species in 1966. 

Stranded dwarf sperm whales have previously been recorded in Western Australia, Tasmania, South Australia, New South Whales and the Northern Territory, and a live sighting was reported in South Australia in 2006.

The whale is now with Museum Victoria where, where they will be able to confirm the species around mid-way through next week. If confirmed as a dwarf sperm whale, the rare specimen will be added to the museum’s Natural Sciences Collection.