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Dead whale could take ‘several weeks’ to dissect: Museum

SINGAPORE — It could take “up to several weeks” before the rotting carcass of the sperm whale that washed up on Singapore’s shores is fully dissected and brought indoors for further examination, staff from the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) said.

Dead whale could take ‘several weeks’ to dissect: Museum

Staff from the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum inserting a tube to release gas from the sperm whale's gut. Photo: Edric Sng via Channel NewsAsia

SINGAPORE — It could take “up to several weeks” before the rotting carcass of the sperm whale that washed up on Singapore’s shores is fully dissected and brought indoors for further examination, staff from the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) said.

The main risk: The high likelihood of the whale’s decomposing innards exploding, said Mr Foo Maosheng, curator of the cryogenic collection at the LKCNHM.

When Channel NewsAsia visited the location of the carcass at Tuas South this morning (July 11), staff from the museum were seen inserting a straw-like metal rod into various parts of the underside of the whale’s belly. This was meant to allow the built-up gas in the belly to be released slowly and safely, Mr Foo said.

“We are now working to extract the part that decomposes fastest: The gut,” he said. “First we are releasing air from the gut - it’s well known that the gut of a dead whale can explode.”

“It’s hard to tell how long it will take. This is our first time doing anything like this, it could take at least a week to several weeks to deflesh the whole thing,” Mr Foo added. “We are not working through the night. Its not safe to work overnight. It’s a biohazard. And there’s not much light, we need to stay safe.”

Apart from preserving the skeleton for possible display, Mr Foo said they also plan to extract some tissue for DNA tests as well as study the contents of the whale’s stomach, which could give some clues on the whale’s final days and the route it took to Singapore.

The bloodied carcass of the sperm whale was spotted off the coast of Jurong Island on Friday morning. The whale was finally brought to shore at 9.15pm last evening, after an operation involving various government bodies, including the Maritime Port Authority and the National Environment Agency, who pitched in to help staff from the LKCNHM salvage the carcass.

The age and gender of the whale are not yet known.

“We can’t tell it’s age for sure but it’s young,” said Mr Foo. “Males can grow up to 18m. This is 10.6m. We can’t tell if it’s male or female - the genitals are hidden away.” CHANNEL NEWSASIA

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