Dead Bryde’s whale found near Shenzhen, authorities investigating if it was local celebrity

·3-min read

The body of a dead Bryde’s whale was spotted off the coast of Shenzhen on Monday night, and experts are working to ascertain whether it is the same animal that had become a local celebrity for the past two months.

“Our law enforcement team found the body of a Bryde’s whale at the intersection between Shenzhen and Hong Kong territorial waters,” a notice from the Shenzhen Oceanic Administration said.

The statement said the police brought the body to shore and researchers are now investigating the body.

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A Bryde's whale forages in waters off Weizhou Island in south China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region in January, 2021. Photo: Xinhua
A Bryde's whale forages in waters off Weizhou Island in south China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region in January, 2021. Photo: Xinhua

The public lamented the news of the whale’s passing.

Ma Haipeng, the executive secretary general of Shenzhen Blue Ocean Conservation Association, wrote on WeChat:

“Whether it is the same celebrity whale, it is still a first-class protected animal in China. It was a living and breathing whale.”

Locals spotted the whale that became a local celebrity in late June, and later a video circulated online showing seagulls flying around the whale, visible above the water.

Local fishing authorities warned people to keep a safe distance from the whale to give it space to feed and freely move around the area. To protect the whale, the Shenzhen government constantly met with local NGOs, researchers and volunteers.

Since then, it has been resting and feeding in the area, crossing between Shenzhen and Hong Kong waters.

On August 17, the government set up a temporary protection zone for the area that banned yachts, recreational and tourism vessels, motorboats, sailing boats and fishing vehicles, a decision hailed by environmentalists.

The government had increased patrols in the area and volunteers cleaned trash and fishing nets.

Whether it is the same celebrity whale, it is still a first-class protected animal in China. It was a living and breathing whale.

Ma Haipeng, the executive secretary general of Shenzhen Blue Ocean Conservation Association

Bryde’s whales are marked by three ridges on the top of its back, typically a dark grey. Their abdomens are usually white but sometimes pink.

Historically, Bryde’s whales lived in the oceans near the southern regions of China. These whales live in tropical and temperate climate zones.

In China, they are commonly seen close to Weizhou island in Beihai, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, further south than Guangdong.

This year, the species was added to a national list of first-class protected animals, which means poachers would be strictly punished if they are caught killing the whales. Other animals on the list, first introduced in 1989, include giant pandas, Tibetan antelopes and red-crowned cranes.

“The whale left us and could never return to the blue oceans any more, rest in peace,” said a commenter on Weibo.

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