A carcass of a Finless Porpoise found washed ashore from Sg Teraban on April 30 with a bloody mouth and eyes. Photos by Wee Wei Min
Brunei: Researcher investigates death of porpoise rare in Brunei
By Aaron Wong, 12th May 2015;
A Brunei-based researcher is investigating the death of a Finless Porpoise (Neophocaena phocaenoides) that was recently found with a bloody mouth and eyes at Belait’s Sungai Teraban.
A fishing hobbyist found the porpoise, over a metre long and weighing 30 to 40 kilogrammes, washed ashore the river on April 30.
The carcass was retrieved two days later by a researcher and brought to an undisclosed location to be studied.
According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the Finless Porpoise is a vulnerable species with a “high risk of endangerment in the wild”.
The researcher, who asked not to be named, said the porpoise’s death was of interest because sightings of the mammal are rare in Brunei and immediate judgement could not be made on its cause of death.
“There is no external damage on the skin of the porpoise; no broken skin or muscle. The skin is completely intact, which makes it quite strange,” said the researcher.
When pictures of the porpoise first made rounds on social media last week, accompanying messages stipulated sonar activity as causing the porpoise’s death.
The researcher said this was unlikely, but said that an autopsy would soon be performed to more accurately identify the cause of death.
“My initial guess would be that a boat collision caused its death because of its bloody eyes and mouth, but again the lack of punctures or obvious bruises elsewhere on its body makes it hard to know for sure,” he said.
Wee Wei Min, who first found the carcass with his cousin, suggested that a fisherman may have accidentally caught the porpoise, later dumping it ashore.
The researcher also raised the possibility of more than one dead porpoise being washed ashore at Sg Teraban, as the collected carcass was of different size than the porpoise in the picture first taken by Wee.
“Wee was the one who brought me to collect the porpoise, but it was a very different size than to the picture he took,” said the researcher.
“In the picture he took when he first found the porpoise, Wee who is of a smaller stature is holding the porpoise easily. I would say the carcass was one and a half times bigger when I saw it in person.”
The porpoise is currently being held in cold storage at an undisclosed location.