Whale Lost in Amazon Found Dead

Sao Paulo, Brazil
Associated Press
November 21, 2007

A minke whale that got lost and swam some 810 miles (1,300 kilometers) up the Amazon River died after a failed effort to capture it and transport it back to the ocean, an environmental official said Wednesday.

The 18-foot (5.5-meter) minke whale was stranded on sandbars at least twice after it was first spotted last week in the Tapajós River, a tributary of the Amazon, near the jungle city of Santarém. (See picture.)

A group of biologists and veterinarians managed to examine the animal on Sunday, but the whale got away and was found dead Tuesday on a Tapajós River beach, said Nazarena Silva, an official with the Brazilian environmental protection agency's Santarém office.

The group had been trying to contain the whale in a small area of river while arranging for a ship to take it back to sea. Local residents had never seen a whale in the region before, Silva said.

Rescuers, including local villagers, abandoned efforts to secure a net around the whale on Sunday because it became agitated and risked injuring itself.

Scientists said the whale was in the river for at least 15 days, and experts had expressed confidence it could survive because there have been cases of whales spending two months in fresh water.

(Related photo: Minke Whale Swims into New York Bay, Then Dies.)

Biologists conducted an autopsy on the whale to determine the cause of death, Silva said. Authorities were making plans to transport the whale's carcass to the ocean.

The minke whale is the second smallest of the baleen whales after the pygmy right whale.

The International Whaling Commission Scientific Committee estimates there are about 184,000 minke whales in the central and northeast Atlantic Ocean.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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