Pygmy blue whale found at Red Beach on 2 September 2023
Image: DOC


The body of a juvenile pygmy blue whale was discovered on Red Beach on Saturday 2 September.

Date:  05 September 2023

The body of a juvenile pygmy blue whale, measuring 14.6 metres in length, was discovered on Red Beach on Saturday 2 September by members of the public and notified to the Ngāti Manuhiri Settlement Trust and Te Papa Atawhai/Department of Conservation (DOC).

Ngāti Manuhiri Settlement Trust staff and DOC staff attended the site to ensure safety of the community during assessments and removal.

Tikanga (customs) and kawa (protocols) were followed in accordance with Ngāti Manuhiri Settlement Trust kaumatua, and karakia (incantations) were placed to acknowledge the mauri (life force) of the majestic parāoa (whale).

“Our pūrākau (traditional stories) tell us that there is a whakapapa connection between whales and the ngahere (forests), so burying this taonga back in the earth was the correct thing to do in this instance” says Ringi Brown, Kaumatua and Trustee of the Ngāti Manuhiri Settlement Trust.

The whale remains, approximately 20 tonnes in weight, were craned onto a truck and taken to one of Ngāti Manuhiri Settlement Trust whale urupā (burial sites). Due to the size of this particular whale, it was unable to be placed in the whāngaparāoa urupā so was taken further north to its final resting place.

DOC Tāmaki Makaurau Operations Manager Rebecca Rush said that the whale appeared to have been deceased for several days prior to washing up.

“Due to the advanced state of decomposition a necropsy was not undertaken,” said Rebecca.

The cause of death remains unknown, however markings on the carcass suggested it had been involved in an orca attack.

With the blessing of Ngāti Manuhiri, Massey University collected tissue and blubber samples of the whale, which will provide further understanding of the ecology and any contaminant burden on this taonga.

“These results will contribute to the wider knowledge of pygmy blue whales, providing valuable information for DOC’s database,” said Rebecca.

Ngāti Manuhiri Settlement Trust and DOC would like to thank Karen Stockin Professor - Marine Biology, Massey University, DOC's volunteer Seal Observation Squad, Masons Contractors, and McKenzie Contracting for their support.

DOC encourages people to report whale sightings and strandings by calling the DOC hotline, 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).


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