Dead newborn humpback whale found washed up at Kei Mouth
The Wild Coast recorded its first whale stranding of 2020 on Saturday when a newborn humpback was found washed up at Kei Mouth.
The dead whale had been on the rocks for a number of days, according to East London Museum principal scientist Kevin Cole.
“This was evident as the carcass was in an advanced state of decomposition,” he said.
“The body was bloated and the skin was discoloured from many days of being exposed to sunlight. The tongue was protruding from the mouth between the baleen plates due to the bloating,” Cole said.
The whale measured 3.81m from the tip of the upper jaw to the deepest insert of the tail notch.
It measured less than the average length recorded for newborn humpbacks, which are usually between 3.96m and 4.57m.
Humpback whale births usually take place between July and October, peaking in August.
Mothers feed their young for 10 to 11 months and youngsters are weaned when they are 8m to 10m long.
The cause of the baby humpback whale’s death has not been determined.
“There was no sign of physical trauma such as shark bites or any other wounds, except a purposeful cut to the left flank which may have been done postmortem after the animal had stranded,” Cole said.
Skin and blubber samples have been sent to Bayworld in Port Elizabeth, which houses the largest marine mammal collection in the southern hemisphere.
According to Cole, there were 12 whale strandings in other parts of the province between January and the first week of August.
“Of these  strandings, six were baleen cetaceans — four humpback whales and two Bryde’s whales.
“Six were toothed cetaceans — two long-beaked common dolphins, a Risso’s dolphin, a striped dolphin, a pygmy killer whale and a short-finned pilot whale,” Cole said.
The last stranding of a humpback was of a 20-ton animal found on the rocky shores of West Bank in July 2019.
Cole said many neonate humpback calves had been reported in local waters in the past few months.
In July, light-coloured humpback calves were spotted at Wavecrest on the Wild Coast.