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The discovery of a beaked whale on the coast of Buenos Aires

During the morning of this past Saturday, 22nd of October, we were contacted by the Argentinian Coastguard Prefectura Naval Argentina and authorities of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development asking for our help in the discovery of a cetacean floating on the edge of the coast in Vincente López, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Quickly we organized with a team from WDC and collaborators from Fundación Cethus, in this case advanced students in the veterinary field, to assist us at the location and in evaluating the situation.

Once there, we were able to confirm that it involved a male Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris) that was dead. Given that the area where the whale was discovered was a public beach and therefore very crowded, especially since it was a weekend, and the fact that people were very curious to see an animal that is uncommon to this area, we decided, in conjunction with infectious disease specialists, that it was necessary to bring the beaked whale onto shore quickly, for biohazard reasons. 

After extensive hours of collaborating and coordinating with different municipal authorities, we were able to take the beaked whale out of the water and transport him to a property of the Coordinación Ecológica Área Metropolitana Sociedad del Estado (CEAMSE), an organization in charge of processing remains found in the city of Buenos Aires and adjacent areas, for the proper disposal of the body. Previously, we took the corporal measurements that were possible given the state and spatial arrangement of the beaked whale, verifying that he measured 5.12 meters of total length.

Once transported, we worked together with the Museum of Natural Science of Argentina «Bernardino Rivadavia», with the objective to recover the skeleton for its exhibition and collect samples of skin, blubber, muscle, reproductive organs, liver, lungs, and kidneys to analyze for genetics, contaminants, and pathogens as much as we could, given the level of decomposition.

Ziphids or beaked whales belong to a family of toothed whales called Ziphiidae, and form one of the most unknown groups of large mammals, given that they prefer deep waters where they can dive for long periods of time in search of food and have elusive behaviors on the surface. Much of the information that is known about this species comes from stranded individuals or skeleton remains. Because of this, the possibility to recuperate the skeleton of this beaked whale and collect samples has a great scientific value. It is possible that he was dragged to the coast from the ocean by strong winds that occurred during the previous days before discovery.

We thank the work and collaboration provided by the Prefectura Naval Argentina, municipal authorities of Civil Defense, and the volunteer firemen of Vicente López for helping in removing the body as soon as possible from the public beach where he was discovered on.

Celeste Forlenza and Leonardo González from Fundación Cethus, Cecilia Gasparrou, Vanesa Reyes and Vanesa Tossenberger from WDC and Fundación Cethus participated in the recovery and disection of the body.