SAO PAULO – A humpback whale was found dead in a mangrove swamp on an island in the Amazon state of Para after being driven ashore by the powerful tides that engulfed the region, the Bicho D’Agua Institute, a Brazilian marine conservation group, said Tuesday.
The cetacean, 8m (26 ft) long, was thrown aground last week in a mangrove swamp with trees up to 40m tall, institute president Renata Emin told EFE.
The specialists believe the 1-year-old whale had gone astray looking for food, which was in short supply, and was swept into the thick mangrove swamp some 15m from the beach.
Marajo island, located at the mouth of the Amazon River, is known for its “macrotides” that often come blasting in twice a day with waves up to 4m high.
According to Emin, during high tide the mangroves are underwater, which could explain how the enormous mammal was swept to the place it was found.
The humpback whale was discovered by people following a flock of vultures that dived into the area to devour its remains.
Experts are attempting to discover how it ended up on the coast of Para state, since that is not at all on the route of whale pods of the North and South Atlantic, Emin said.
“It’s not a route used by either of the two populations. It’s a big question and we hope to have the answer very soon,” he said.
To find the answer, biologists have taken DNA samples to determine which side of the Atlantic the whale came from, and to understand why it approached the shore of Marajo island.
“We’re collecting all the information possible and identifying some marks and wounds on its body to see if it was caught in some fishing net or was hit by a boat,” Emin said.
With an almost 10-percent population growth annually, the number of humpback whales that visit the Brazilian coast has increased in recent decades, particularly since 1996 when hunting them was banned.
Every year some 20,000 humpback whales migrate between July and November to the clear, temperate waters of the Brazilian coastline, specifically the Abrolhos Archipelago, their largest breeding ground in the South Atlantic and where the cetaceans attract thousands of tourists every year.