Short-Finned Pilot Whale Strands in Kiamba
Local residents of Purok Dahlia, Barangay Lebe, Kiamba Sarangani Province found a dead stranded marine mammal, which was later identified as a short-finned pilot whale, at their coastal area. The animal was found at around 5 o’clock in the morning on July 4, 2020 according to Kiamba Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Officer Carmelo Velasco, who was among the first to respond to the stranding. He added that the same animal was spotted at around 2:00 PM the previous day (July 3) swimming very close to the shore in the coastal area of Barangay Nalus.
Dr. Lem Aragones, an expert in marine mammals and president of the Philippine Marine Mammal Stranding Network (PMMSN) positively identified the marine mammal as a short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus) based on pictures sent to him by the PMMSN Region 12 Chapter. In order to ascertain the cause of death, the members of the PMMSN BFAR 12 Chapter, Kiamba MENRO staff, DENR 12 -CENRO staff and local volunteers conducted a necropsy on the pilot whale. The animal was determined to be male, about four (4) meters long, and did not exhibit any external injuries apart from four small bite marks from cookie-cutter sharks at its belly. The team dissected the animal and took tissue samples of internal organs, blubber and bones for analysis by experts at the University of the Philippines – Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology (UP-IESM). The team was not able to determine the cause of death at the time of the necropsy. After securing the tissue samples, the pilot whale was buried on site.
According to the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration – Fisheries (NOAA-Fisheries), short-finned pilot whales are found globally in tropical and temperate oceans. They are long-lived, slow to reproduce, and highly social. They live in stable groups of 15 to 30 animals comprised of close family relatives, and tend to live in localized, resident populations, although some populations have wider ranges. Their diet consists primarily of squid, with a small amount of fish. Also, pilot whales are often involved in mass strandings for reasons that are still unclear.
The Philippine Marine Mammal Stranding Network (PMMSN) is a group of professionals and volunteers throughout the Philippines who are committed to responding to stranded marine mammals such as dolphins, whales and dugongs. Its partner institutions are the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Ocean Adventure, Wildlife in Need (WIN) and the University of the Philippines – Institute of Environmental Sciences and Meteorology (UP-IESM).