A trophy hunter is suspected of hacking off the lower jaw of a rare sperm whale after the animal’s carcass was found mutilated on a beach on the New South Wales Far North Coast.
It has remained in the tidal zone as authorities work on a plan to remove the carcass, which weighs an estimated 54 tonnes.
Today it was discovered that someone had hacked away a portion of the whale’s distinctive lower jaw.
Whales are protected under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016. And to help protect against illegal trade in wildlife parts, it is against the law to possess any part of a whale under state, federal and international legislation.
Jools Farrell, from the Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia, said the apparent trophy hunter could face a fine of up to $88,000 if caught.
« It shows no respect whatsoever for this whale. Also, it is illegal and there are huge fines for doing anything like that.
« If I was the person who took part of that whale’s jaw, I would be returning it under the cover of night. »
Ms Farrell said there was a lucrative but illegal trade in items such as sperm whale teeth.
« I’m sure whoever took these teeth is going to try to get rid of them on the black market.
Local Bundjalung woman Regina Moran was also angry that someone had taken such a grisly souvenir.
« I actually thought the vet guy chain-sawed that piece of the jaw off, and then when I asked him he said someone had come in and taken that piece off, » Ms Moran said.
« I’m just like, wow, because the teeth alone would be worth a fair bit on the black market.
Doctor Liz Hawkins, from Dolphin Research Australia, said it was incredibly rare to find a sperm whale in the region.
« I’ve been studying marine mammals on the north coast for 20 years and I haven’t heard of a confirmed sighting of a live sperm whale in all that time, » Dr Hawkins said.
« They are known to be oceanic pelagic animals, and typically found in very deep water.
« So it’s incredibly intriguing the story behind this animal, and what did cause its demise as well. »
Local government and state authorities are working together on a plan to take the carcass inland to the Lismore tip.
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