Late on Thursday night, Mumbai's Juhu beach had an unusual visitor. A 40-foot long whale – which some have identified as a Bryde's whale – was spotted on the beach. The massive animal, said to weigh around four tonnes, seemed like it had already died a day or two prior and had washed up on the beach.
Photos of the animal have been sent to experts for identification, said Ketki Jog, a member of the Konkan Cetacean Research Team. Meanwhile, authorities called in hydraulic cranes to dispose of the whale's carcass. They had initially planned to transport the body to Navi Mumbai but later decided to simply bury at 5 km away at a secluded spot on the same beach.
After the mammal was discovered, there was still the danger of the whale exploding. "Yesterday when I saw the pictures of the whale at night, it already looked quite bloated," Jog said. "So there are always safety concerns in disposing of the carcass. Ideally, the carcass is buried, but really there's no sure way of doing this, so there's a chance that they might have to burn it also."
Jog said that there isn't currently a standard protocol to deal with situations like this, which needs to be evolved. She also added that the first priority would be to collect data about the creature, so that researchers can understand what exactly might have happened.
"We don't really know what has taken place. It could be natural causes or it could be because of people. We will have to collect data for that," Jog said. "Whales have been washing up for a while now and it will keep happening. The fact that at least these things are being reported on a regular basis means that there might be things we could find out which probably weren't so obvious before."
Last year a blue whale washed up on a beach in Alibaug, near Mumbai, while still alive. Despite the efforts of dozens of people, the animal remained on the beach where it eventually died and was buried. Yet it served as a reminder of the same problem, the lack of protocol, especially when on-lookers approach the carcass which may still be dangerous because of bloating.
A Bryde's whale was also found beached in Kerala in 2011, with people suspecting that the animal had been injured by a collision with a ship.