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Giant squid carcass gets chopped up in Kommetjie before experts get vital statistics

Giant squid washes ashore on a Cape beach in Kommetjie over the weekend. Picture: Ali Paulus

Giant squid washes ashore on a Cape beach in Kommetjie over the weekend. Picture: Ali Paulus

Published May 3, 2022

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Cape Town - Residents of Kommetjie, beach visitors, and conservation groups were left in awe over the weekend after the carcass of a rare giant squid washed up along the shore at Long Beach in Kommetjie.

On Saturday the wildlife team of the Cape of Good Hope SPCA was alerted and saw to it that the remains of the squid were sent back into the ocean for consumption by other sea creatures while some tissue samples were taken and sent to the Iziko Museum.

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“In South Africa, giant squid specimens are preserved in the natural science history collection of Iziko Museums, where 19 giant squids are currently stored,” Two Oceans Aquarium digital manager Devon Bowen said.

Wildlife officer Jon Friedman said upon arrival at Long Beach in Kommetjie, a group of people gathered around the remains of the giant squid carcass and local fishermen were busy sharing out pieces of the tentacles and other body parts they had chopped off.

“We were only able to salvage a few tissue samples for Iziko as the most important pieces of the animal that could have offered us insight into aspects of the animal’s age, its diet, and cause of death had already been removed by fishermen and trophy hunters,” Friedman said.

Giant squid washes ashore on a Cape beach in Kommetjie over the weekend. Picture: Ali Paulus

Discovering the cause of death was particularly important considering the dead and dying marine life that have been washing ashore on the West Coast over the past year.

“From the condition of its internal organs that were left behind, I would say that the animal seemed in good health, her stomach was full and she was only about two years old.

“As to her cause of death, I would say that she was most likely struck by a ship while she was at the sea surface as giant squid are normally deep ocean dwellers, typically inhabiting depths of between 300 and 1 000 metres,” Friedman said.

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Friedman said unless more strandings of giant squid were sighted along the coast, this case was not a cause for alarm other than to signal that there was more ship traffic in the waters – which made animals that tended to spend time at the surface level more vulnerable to being run over.

Bowen said the largest giant squid ever recorded in South Africa had also washed up at Kommetjie back in 1992 and it had been an astounding 9.1m in length.

Giant squid washes ashore on a Cape beach in Kommetjie over the weekend. Picture: Reece Moonjava

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