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June 18, 2011

Semporna may be breeding ground for Rare Whale


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.




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