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May 13, 2020

A Dead Whale in Belize – No Answers on Cause of Death

A dead whale was discovered this morning in the vicinity of Drowned Caye. It’s not a usual occurrence to find such a large whale dead in very shallow waters.  Local researchers estimate that the whale has been dead not more than week because it was only moderately decomposed. They also suggest that it may have been swimming in Belize’s waters for the last few weeks. What researchers can’t say, however, is what caused the death of the whale. Nicole Auil Gomez of Wildlife Conservation Society went out to the site today to help conduct an external examination. She tells us more.


Nicole Auil Gomez

Nicole Auil Gomez, Belize Country Programme Director, WCS

“This animal is too large. We are not equipped well enough to open it up. So, what we did was to do a complete assessment outside to provide enough information to determine the species. It is a very large whale. It is one of the bigger whales. The length is approximately eighteen meters long. It was a male but because we are unable to roll it to see all the features, it is a little bit hard to identify so we took a lot of pictures. We have a couple species we think it is but it is a Baleen Whale which means it is a whale that filter feeds. It doesn’t eat fish or its not hunting or competing against fishers for fish in the sea. What is very interesting is that it is found in quite shallow water in the Drowned Cayes inside the actual mangroves which is really peculiar. This type of whale would be in deep waters looking for krill and other planktons to filter feed. So, we don’t know why it is here. We didn’t get to open it to see stomach contents to see what might be inside. So, we don’t know cause of death. But it is very interesting. I would just like to remind the public when you see these interesting cases please share it with the Belize Marine Mammal Stranding Network.  When animals start to come into shallow waters. There is something usually already wrong with it. Belize waters have whales – we know we have whales in the deep sea between the Lighthouse, Turneffe, outside the barrier lagoon. This animal came in and it could have been coming in ill and usually when animals start to come closer to shore in shallow waters, it is about to strand – it is ill and it could be starving. We are asking that people don’t mess with the carcass. We are hoping to later recover the carcass – what’s left – the bones. Perhaps it can be something that we can put back together with a taxonomist to have a nice display. This is an interesting find for Belize indeed.”


A report will be prepared and circulated in marine and conservation networks with the hopes that it may help to offer additional expert opinion and any possible related findings to provide a more thorough analysis on the whale.

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