Dead whale washed ashore in Colombo

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 15 October 2003, 16:06 GMT]
A large dead humpback whale was found washed ashore at the Bambalapitiya beach in Colombo Wednesday. Curious onlookers, including school children, gathered at the beach to see the mammal, sources said.

Dead whale
The huge dead whale washed ashore on the Bambalapitiya beach
The humpback whale is one of the rorquals, a family that includes the blue whale, fin whale, Bryde's whale, sei whale, and minke whale. Rorquals have two characteristics in common: dorsal fins on their backs, and ventral pleats running from the tip of the lower jaw back to the belly area.

The shape and color pattern on the humpback whale's dorsal fin and fluke (tail) are as individual in each animal as are fingerprints in humans.

The head of a humpback whale is broad and rounded when viewed from above, but slim in profile. The body is not as streamlined as other rorquals, but is quite round, narrowing to a slender peduncle (tail stock). There are between 20-35 ventral grooves, which extend slightly beyond the navel.

Found in all the world's oceans, most populations of humpback whales follow a regular migration route, summering in temperate and polar waters for feeding, and wintering in tropical waters for mating and calving.

Because their feeding, mating, and calving grounds are close to shore and because they are slow swimmers, the humpback whales were an easy target for early whalers. Between 1905 and 1965, 28,000 humpback whales were killed.

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) gave them worldwide protection status in 1966. It is believed they number about 15,000-20,000 at present, or about 15-20% of the original population.

Dead whale
A photographer taking pictures of the whale.

Dead whale
A school child showing the whale's wounded body to her friends.


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