A wounded dwarf sperm whale that had washed up ashore on Lembeng Beach in Bali’s Gianyar regency last week was reportedly cut into parts and had its oil extracted by local residents, conservation officers said, pointing to a lack of awareness on protected species among citizens.

According to reports, conservation officers were first alerted to the discovery after a video circulated widely online, showing a group of men carrying the sea mammal, which was reportedly dead by then, to shore. 

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In a press statement, the Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) in Bali said that village officials from Ketewel, where Lembeng Beach is located, had apologized on behalf of their residents for failing to report the stranded dwarf sperm whale and later cutting it up to extract its oil. 

“The local residents believed that oil from whale is useful for medicine or supernatural purposes, and so several of them decided to make use of it by cutting the whale in parts,” Permana Yudiarso, who heads the Coastal and Marine Resources Management Center (BPSPL) in Denpasar, said.

BPSPL, which helped identify the sea mammal, said that dwarf sperm whale is a protected species, and listed as such in a Ministry of Environment and Forestry decree issued in 2018. Under Indonesian law, the consumption of protected species is forbidden.

When questioned by authorities, local residents who cut up the whale claimed they weren’t aware that the sea mammal was a protected species. BKSDA Bali said they wrote a statement of apology and promised not to repeat the act. Village officials, meanwhile, suggested an information board should be put up on Lembeng Beach to raise awareness on the matter. 

The dwarf sperm whale is one of the most commonly beached deep-diving whales in the world, and is said to be pretty common in waters off of Bali. The one found in Gianyar was 1.9 meters long, with conservation officers saying it may have been separated from its pod.  

Read more news and updates from Bali here.

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