Sperm whale teeth can be worth up to $1500 on the black market.

 

SOME Phillip Island locals are disturbed and disappointed that someone has been allowed to cut off the jaw and pull out the valuable teeth of the dead Sperm whale beached at Forrest Caves.

The theft is believed to have occurred overnight on Thursday night.

Local natural scientist, Mike Cleeland, said the teeth could be worth as much as $1500 each.

“They should have known that they needed night patrols. The teeth are worth about $1500 each,” he said.

Another Islander, Mat Bowtell was concerned about what has happened to the whale.

“It’s sad to hear that people have stolen the jawbone overnight. I agree that it should have been burnt and the skeleton sold to a museum with funds going back into the Nature Parks. It’s only the beginning of the slow rotting process. It’s going to be awful.

A Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning spokeswoman said on Friday it was “disappointingly” the carcass had been interfered with.

The 16-metre carcass is taped-off at low tide but the barrier is removed when the tide is coming in and many people feel free to approach the rotting carcass, notwithstanding the smell.

While most are simply taking whale-selfies, others have taken advantage of the situation.

“The incident will be investigated further under the Wildlife Act, as it is an offence for members of the public to interfere, take or be in possession of parts of a dead whale,” said a DWELP spokesperson.

“We will continue to monitor the site as the whale continues to decompose.”

Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia officials said when sperm whale jaws were illegally removed it was often by perpetrators seeking the creature’s ivory teeth.

They confirmed what Mr Cleeland said, that the teeth attract big money on the black market.

Authorities left the whale in place to allow it to decompose naturally because machinery or vehicles were unable to access the carcass and towing it out to sea posed navigational hazards.

The department spokeswoman said there was an exclusion zone set up around the carcass.

“Members of the public are reminded it is an offence for people to be within 300 metres of the whale,” she said.

An advice message is in place for Woolamai Beach and Surf Beach, including all coastline between the two beaches, because the carcass has the potential to attract sharks.

Meanwhile others have continued to query the reason for the whales death, pointing to the death of a dolphin nearby and other incidents.

“What is really concerning is that this isn’t an isolated incident. A dolphin also washed up onto our shore recently. And today, a baby humpback was found dead at Mount Martha and pilot whale at Wilsons Promontory. What is going on!? This needs to be digged into deeper. I have told the Sentinel Times and The Guardian that something isn’t right here,” Mr Bowtell said.

“I’d say they are doing sesmic testing somewhere in Bass Strait,” was a response received on social media on Friday, not for the first time.

Background information:

* It is an offence for people or their dogs to be within 300 metres of a whale.

* Whales are protected under the Wildlife Act – regardless if they are alive or dead.

* It is an offence under the Wildlife Act for members of the public to interfere, take or be in possession of parts of a dead whale.

* Heavy fines and even jail offences are among the possible penalties.