By Stephanie Russo
Washed-up animal carcasses are always in the news, but once they’ve left the beach, not everyone knows what happens next.
For the City of Fremantle, removing a dead short-finned pilot whale from Bathers Beach last weekend was a textbook procedure.
As the whale washed up on land belonging to the City, it was local government’s responsibility to remove the 1.4 tonne, 5-metre male carcass.
Removing the whale took three hours, and cost an estimated $1000 in landfill and labour—170 times cheaper than the City of Stirling’s humpback removal bill in 2014.
The City’s Team Leader for Community Safety and Rangers, Christopher Scanlan, said the relatively cheap cost of the removal operation was because of the whale’s smaller size and fresh condition.
“We were quite lucky … we were able to use our city work staff and lifting equipment rather than call an external contractor,” Mr Scanlan said.
Department of Parks and Wildlife Marine Parks Coordinator Melissa Evans also attended the scene to identify the whale and take DNA and tissue samples.
She said the horrendous smell normally associated with dead whales was quite surprisingly “non-existent”— which surely made the job much easier.
Workers drove the whale to the Millar Road Landfill and Recycling Facility in Rockingham, which is one of only two locations in Perth where carcasses of this size can be buried.
Burial cost $300.60.
Landfill is the usual destination for animals too large for a lab freezer, or too rotten to be dissected.
Smaller carcasses are often taken to Perth Zoo or Murdoch University for necropsy, an autopsy for animals.
The samples Ms Evans took will now be used to confirm the species.
“If it is confirmed … then this is actually out of its normal area. So we’ll probably share that with a number of researchers,” she said.
The whale’s location might even become “a piece of the puzzle” for climate science.
“With warmer water temperatures, we’re starting to get a lot more tropical fish down further south, so this might be the same thing happening with the whales.”