Mysterious dead creature an Irrawaddy dolphin
Published on: Saturday, April 20, 2019

LABUAN: The carcass of what was thought to be a mysterious creature that washed ashore on Membedai Beach here, Wednesday, has been confirmed to be that of a female Irrawaddy dolphin.

Labuan Fisheries Department director Faizal Ibrahim Suhaili said a fisheries researcher of Rantau Abang in Terengganu confirmed that the dolphin, with the scientific name of Orcaella brevirostris, is a euryhaline species of oceanic dolphin found in discontinuous subpopulations near sea coasts and in estuaries and rivers in parts of Penang, several parts of the peninsula, and Sabah and Sarawak.

He said the 2.5-metre-long 80-kg dolphin had been dead for more than 72 hours on the day it was spotted and that it had died by natural causes.

“It is not the first dead sea creature washed ashore to leave spectators flummoxed. In 2015, two short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus  – dolphin family) washed up on the nearby beach here,” Faizal said.

As for the recently-found dead dolphin, prior to the lab-test findings, the cause of death of the behemoth remained a mystery and it was thought to have died at least three days prior to being washed up on shore.

Originally, many locals thought it was a giant dugong, while others said in online posts that it might be another creature.

The discovery is said to have baffled marine experts across Labuan, initially, but Labuan Veterinary Department director Dr Marysia James Abie said that judging by the appearance of the head, it was clearly a dolphin.

“I doubt that it lived in our waters. Most likely, the animal was brought by the warm current,” she said.

A jogger stumbled upon the carcass on the popular picnic coastline on Wednesday morning and immediately alerted the Fisheries Department.

The status of the Irrawaddy dolphin has been raised from vulnerable to endangered as its numbers have fallen by half over the past 60 years due to human activities, according to the latest Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).


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