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Jaw bone illegally removed from beached Sperm Whale

The Southland App

13 May 2024, 3:54 AM

Jaw bone illegally removed from beached Sperm WhaleThe jaw bone of a dead sperm whale, washed up on the beach near Riverton, has been illegally removed. Photo: Department of Conservation

The jaw bone of a dead sperm whale, washed up on Oreti beach last weekend (4 May) near Riverton, has been illegally removed.


Removing whale bones from a beachcast animal is an offence under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978 and offenders can face fines of up to $250,000.


The Department of Conservation (DOC) is now calling for information regarding its removal.


The remains of a dead Sperm Whale which washed up on Oreti Beach, near Riverton. Photo: DOC


DOC Senior Ranger Rosalind Cole said sometime between last Saturday and Monday, someone had used a chainsaw to take the jawbone.


Marks on the bone and tyre tracks leading to the carcass show it was likely removed by humans rather than scavenging animals.


Whale bone is a highly prized taonga for iwi which is used in carving and it was disappointing someone had stolen it before the appropriate protocols and tikanga had been observed, Cole said.



Ōraka Aparima Kaumātua and Kai Rongoā Muriel Johnstone said the rūnaka were extremely upset the whale had not been offered its due respect in terms of tikanga.


“We know and treat whales as Rangatira (Chiefs) of the sea and as such deserve appropriate protocols said over them. "


"This includes a farewell address and appropriate karakia."



"This then allows us to treat the whale as a gift from the sea and use its resources. These include the bone, teeth and oils that we use as did our ancestors.”


“We have experts at our rūnaka who have worked with whales and their management."


“It is obvious that someone knows the value of these taonga and has deliberately removed and stolen the jaw.”



A similar instance took place in 2015 when the jaw was removed from another sperm whale that had also washed ashore at Oreti Beach. 


A DOC spokesperson said they were currently working through the next steps of what would happen to the whale's body.


Anyone with any information on the missing whale bone can contact DOC on 0800 DOC HOT



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