Beached whale near Miri saved by villagers thanks to WhatsApp

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PETALING JAYA: A whale that got stranded at a beach near Miri, Sarawak, has kind-hearted villagers and the WhatsApp messaging service mobile app to thank for having its life saved on Friday.

The Borneo Post reported yesterday that Raya Idil, the fisherman who spotted the marine mammal lying helplessly on the shore as he was about to fish alone at 6.30am, had quickly alerted his friends by sending out a message in their WhatsApp chat group.

It quoted Omar Eni, who was among six villagers from nearby Kampung Siwak that responded to the message, as saying that they tried to push the 10-metre long animal by themselves but it proved to be too heavy.

“Seven of us villagers teamed up together to dig up the sand surrounding the whale and pushed the mammal, while pouring seawater on the whale’s body,” he was quoted as saying.

They sent out more messages for help, which led to several other villagers and a team from the Fire and Rescue Department showing up an hour later to help move the whale, estimated to weigh more than a tonne, the report said.

“We pushed the whale every time the waves came in, until the whale managed to release itself from being stuck in the sand and swam back to sea. We were relieved,” Omar was quoted as saying by the Sarawak-based daily.

He added that although it was very difficult, they managed to slowly shove the animal into deeper waters with team effort.

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It has been reported that the stretch of the South China Sea off the Miri coastline is regularly used by species like whales, sharks and dolphins as a migration route towards the Tasman Sea, the Southern Ocean and the Pacific Ocean further south.

In June last year, Iqbal Abdollah, who is attached to the Malaysian Nature Society’s (MNS) Miri branch, was reported to have said that the waters there occasionally host a few species of cetaceans, such as whales, dolphins, porpoises and dugongs.

He had pointed to another incident on Dec 24, 2015 when local villagers of Kampung Masjid in Kuala Baram found an adult female pygmy sperm whale and its calf beached on the shore.

The adult had died but the calf, which was still alive, was pushed to the sea.

According to The Borneo Post, four dead marine mammals were found on beaches around Miri in 2015.

They included an unknown species of cetacean found together with sea turtles and a crocodile near Kampung Masjid on April 8, and a finless porpoise at Tanjung Lobang on Aug 18.