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Rare whale found on south Wales beach

Northern bottlenose whale carcass on Sker beach in Bridgend, showing distinctive bulbous forehead and long beak. Photo by Fay Lorraine Phillips/ Sea Watch Foundation.
Northern bottlenose whale carcass on Sker beach in Bridgend, showing distinctive bulbous forehead and long beak.(Pic. by Fay Lorraine Phillips / Sea Watch Foundation)

THE SEA WATCH FOUNDATION were “flabbergasted” to see photos of a dead Northern bottlenose whale that had washed up on Sker veach near Porthcawl in Bridgend on Sunday (Sep 11).

The photographs were sent by Neil Bright and his girlfriend Fay Lorraine Phillips, who discovered the animal as they walked their dog.

The species can usually be found in deep ocean trenches and is usually only seen in British waters off the north-west coast of Scotland.

The images were immediately forwarded to the marine mammal strandings coordinator for Wales, Rod Penrose, who was able to confirm that he’d already attended the animal which was a 5.3m long northern bottlenose whale and had taken samples for DNA testing.

“Due to the state of decomposition together with extensive scavenger damage of the carcass I was unable to determine the cause of death” stated Rod.

bottlenose whales from above. Photo by S Hooker/ Sea Watch Foundation
bottlenose whales from above. (pic. S Hooker/ Sea Watch Foundation)

“This is the third record for Wales, the first was a 6.7m live stranding in Tenby, Pembrokeshire in August 1996 which was luckily persuaded to swim away, the second was a 6.21m female in slight decomposition which stranded at Prestatyn, Denbighshire in October 2009.”

Kathy James, Sightings Officer for Sea Watch Foundation, said: “Northern bottlenose whales have extremely bulbous heads with a protruding ‘bottle-shaped’ beak similar to that of a bottlenose dolphin

“These animals are much larger than their dolphin counterparts measuring up to 10m in length in males. It is thought that this individual is a juvenile as we’d expect an adult to be a minimum of 7.5m”

The most famous bottlenose whale is the ‘Thames Whale’ which found its way into the River Thames in London ten years ago. This disorientated individual was found to be a female measuring 5.85m and died following a failed rescue attempt. In January the whale was commemorated with a march from the Natural History Museum (where its bones are displayed) to Battersea park beach where she stranded.

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Jon Coles

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