Pygmy sperm whale strands in County Waterford

11th Dec 2009 The reports coming through to the IWDG over the last couple of days of a live stranding whale or dolphin species in Dungarvan had caused some confusion as to what species this animal was going to be. My first trip to the beautiful strip of coastland known as The Cunnigar proved to be frustrating as the now dead animal was over 100m from shore in several feet of water and hence inaccesible, and as the tide was still a couple of hours from being at its highest I decided to return later in the day.

The creature that I encountered on my return proved to be highly unusual. Looking more like a shark with its razor-sharp curved teeth and its strange pale false gill line, it was no wonder that identifying this animal had caused such confusion. I certainly hadn't expected to come across a pygmy sperm whale when I set off this morning.

Since 1966 there have only been 7 strandings of this species and a single authenticated sighting record. Those records have all been from the west coast so this animal is a first for both the south coast and a new species for County Waterford.

Many thanks to all who sent in reports in particular to Bernadette Foley and Ray Harty-Manager Dungarvan Shellfish Ltd-who has organised a cold storage facility through his cousin Joe, and to local NPWS Conservation Ranger, Brian Duffy for transporting the animal to UCC, where it will await post mortem examination by veterinary specialists who may be able to establish cause of death.

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