June 18, 2011
Semporna may be breeding ground for Rare Whale
By MUGUNTAN VANAR
KOTA KINABALU: Semporna waters, off Sabah's east coast, could be a breeding ground
for a very rare and endangered pygmy sperm whale.
International experts are interested in conducting scientific studies after
tourists and villagers rescued a 3.5m sperm whale that was stranded in shallow waters close to the famed
Sipadan-Mabul islands on Wednesday.
Scuba Junkie Marine Beach Resort marine biologist Ric Owen said experts from
universities and whale foundations believed the mammal could be breeding in deep waters near Semporna.
Based on visual identification through video and photographs, four different
experts had identified the rescued mammal as a pygmy sperm whale that had been classsified as endangered and near
extinction, Owen said yesterday.
Owen, who has been working in the Semporna area for the last 10 years, said he had
seen at least five types of whales like the pilot whale, Orca whale (known as the killer whale) and also the false
Orca whale in the ocean.
He said the whales were usually seen near Mabul and Sipadan island or between
Mabul and Manta Point and Roach Reef.
“They are usually seen in open waters and not close to the islands.
“The majority of whales here are pilot whales, which are commonly seen from
February to June and October to December,” he added.
On Wednesday, a pygmy sperm whale stranded in coral off Mabul during low tide was
rescued by Scuba Junkie staff, tourists and villagers who helped the mammal back into open sea.
Owen, who was part of the rescue group, said the whale sustained superficial
injuries while it was stranded in the coral.
“We have not seen the whale since.
“But we believe it is doing well,” he said.
He added that the whale weighed about 100 to 150kg.