This is the saddest but most moving interaction I ever had with a marine mammal. Last Saturday, we responded to a call for 2 stranded cetaceans (initially reported as Dolphins). When we got to the site, it was already dark and only one was left behind, a Dwarf Sperm Whale (male calf) (Kogia sima). His body had a bite from a Cookiecutter Shark (Isistius brasiliensis), and lesions from corals and rocks. I was on the phone consulting friends who have experiences with marine mammal rescue, and our goal was for it to swim back out to sea. 2 hours later under the stars and glowing plankton in the water, we bid him farewell, hoping he would not come back to shore, that he would heal and find his mom. I was sad because he’s only a calf, and he may not survive if not reunited with his mother. Noon the next day, we received a call again from the village and rushed to the same site. The Whale was back, swimming weak and with more lesions and wounds. When my friends John and Ledrolen (who were with me in the water the night before) waded into the water, the Whale swam towards them as if asking for help. Our hearts were being crushed, not knowing if he will still survive. But we knew he was fighting to live. It was so powerful, how a marine mammal like that can communicate to us humans through their eyes, breathing, heartbeat and body movement. We hoped we could just bring him to a hospital and treat his wounds. One thing that Doc Ari told us to do early on during the response was to talk to the Whale. We were whispering to him with sincere love and encouragement. It may have been silly but it made sense to us. We named him Jafi to honor his personality and to remember him as a friend. Jafi didn’t make it, but we wish to commemorate him by committing to care for all our fellow Earthlings.
Thanks to Bianca and Kaila for the phone support during the response, colleagues in BFAR and Cauayan MAO for coordinating, and to Elenuel Genova of CHMSC for reporting the stranding. I didn’t want to post Jafi’s post-mortem photos for the measurements and all, so if you need those and stranding data, please contact me.