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Fiji Time: 2:27 AM on Thursday 17 April

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Islanders discover dead whale

SERAFINA SILAITOGA
Monday, January 21, 2008

A 22 metre long whale with a belly about three metres high was found dead on Mali Island in the northern division at the weekend.

Villagers say the whale was found lying on one side of Mali in Macuata.

Waisea Makulau from Malau said the whale had been spotted swimming around the island since December 26.

"That was Boxing Day and every time we go out fishing, the whale would come around but when it hears the sound of the engine, it disappears under water," he said.

"It used to enjoy the sea around Mali Island and near Malau and it was a thrilling experience to watch the whale freely swim around the sea."

He received news of the dead whale on Friday from a friend on Mali Island.

"A friend of mine that came from Mali told me that the whale was lying on one side of the island, dead.

"It saddened me and my friends because we had become fond of it when we sighted it several times swimming," Mr Makulau said. On Friday night, he and a group of men hired a boat to the site to remove 40 whalesteeth and sold most of it as tabua with the smallest for $300.

"When we arrived the whale already had this foul smell and it was difficult to go around it.

"But we wanted the teeth for tabua, especially in these hard times when we are all looking for money to support our families," Mr Makulau said.

He said they managed to remove 40 teeth from the bottom gum of the whale while the top set had all disappeared.

"We used a ladder to remove the teeth because the whale was huge," Mr Makulau said.

Yesterday thick oily substance covered the water where the whale lay.

The substance was as thick and oily as ghee and covered a width of about three metres.

In Fiji whales teeth have particular cultural significance.

Fijians from remote coastal areas wait for stranded whales.

If there is no help available to assist the beached whale, they would wait for the whale to die naturally before the teeth are removed.