Spanish biologists have come up with a technique to treat the skeletons of beached whales which wash up in the Canary Islands in order to put them on display as “sculptures of nature.”
Over the past two years the nongovernmental organization Canaries Conservation has brought together a group of biologists to work on the project to display the skeletons of the sperm whales; the Spanish island chain is their most popular habitat after the Patagonia region of Argentina.
Manuel Carrillo, who heads the group of experts, said ultimately the full skeletons will be placed near the shoreline as a potent reminder of their fate.
“We want to carry out an exhaustive monitoring of the whales along the Canary Island’s coastline but we also want to give due recognition to their exhibitive value and enable people to see them as (the skeleton) is a wonderful part of the animal you don’t usually see,” Carrillo said.
Many of the sperm whales which the sea carries to the shores of the Canaries die a traumatic death, the fate suffered by eight that died in the wake of naval manoeuvres which the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) carried out in November at the Spanish naval base at Rota, on the southern mainland.
“Sperm whales are great predators. They are lords of the sea and can hear boats going by perfectly, they aren’t afraid of them and don’t shy away.
“As there is a huge amount of maritime traffic this increases the possibility of collisions,” explained Carrillo, while adding that some clearly die of natural causes.
Once city authorities or the police inform them one of the creatures has expired on shore a team of biologists and vets heads to the beach to carry out what is a “tough and slow” task.
“First of all we carry out a necropsy to determine the causes of death and collate biological information, such as the age by cutting the teeth as you would do with trees (when determining their age).
“Then we remove the skin and bones,” Carrillo said. The meat is disposed of and the bones stored in “picon,” a light, low-pressure volcanic stone. As the bones “are large and porous they can fracture quite easily,” Carrillo explained.
The bones then stay put for six months before they are dug up and subjected to a chemical treatment to remove remaining traces of fat.
Source: Discovery Channel