Pygmy sperm whale strands in North Kerry - Update !

30th Nov 2005 A pygmy sperm whale, one of the rarest cetacean species recorded in Ireland, has been found washed up in Ballyheigue, Co Kerry.

The whale was found by Cliona McGuire and her children Mary-Kate (8), Joshua (5) and Eli (2) on 22 November. Clionas sister Sinead Hussey went to take photographs on 23 November and informed her father Michael Hussey. Michael informed Mara Beo who suggested it was a pilot whale.

 Pygmy sperm whale

Images were received by the IWDG on the evening of the 30 November which show it unequivocally to be a pygmy sperm whale.

This is only the sixth stranding record of this species in Ireland, the last being in July 2002, also in North Kerry, just around the corner in the Maharees.

The images show the animal to be very fresh, possibly slightly immaciated and with a badly grazed beak, suggesting it might have been alive on stranding.

Latest: The whale was buried on Saturday 26 November. An attempt today to locate and recover the carcass failed but many thanks to Kerry County Council for their co-operation.

Kerry Co Co attempt to recover buried whale

The saga continues ... the carcass rose from its sandy grave on Friday night and washed up on the very part of the beach outside Michael and Sinead Husseys house! Mick O'Connell took the call Saturday afternoon and quickly loaded the trailer and family and rushed down to Ballyheigue lest we lose it again.

 Simon Berrow and Mick O'Connell carry out a post-mortem

As more family members joined the whale story, the whale was pulled up the beach by Sineads husband Bradley Deutrom with his 4-wheel drive. As the tide rose, the 4-wheel drive struggled to make it over the top of the pebble beach and there was no way back as the sea had cut off his retreat. Bradley realised he had to leave the jeep overnight on a safe high part of the beach to recover the following morning at low tide. Perseverance prevailed and eventually the whale was safely loaded in the trailer. Mick then dashed to get the last ferry across the Shannon estuary to west Clare.

So after a long week we now have a flensed carcass ready for skeletal preparation, samples for DNA and pollutant analysis, as well as prey items. The whale was confirmed as a sexually immature female.

Many thanks to Cliona, Mary-Kate, Joshua and Eli Mcguire, Sinead and Michael Deutrom and Michael Hussey of Ballyheigue for reporting this stranding and obtaining excellent images no to mention all their help on the beach.

Simon Berrow

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