Curious onlookers inspect the carcass of the whale that beached on the South Coast, and some helping themselves to the meat. Photo: Drisha Pillay

Durban - A task team has been set up to look into the disposal of the carcass of a humpback whale that washed up on a South Coast beach on Monday morning.

The Hibiscus Municipality, which oversees Palm Beach where the decomposing mammal washed up, said the team would include municipal officials and KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife experts.

As the whale was pushed higher on to the rocks by high tides on Monday night, they would look at the options available.

“We can’t just bury the body on the beach in the sand, because the fat will seep into the water which, aside from the obvious hygiene issues, will attract sharks,” Tony Davis, the municipality’s area manager of cleaning and waste management, said on Tuesday.

He said vehicles were not allowed on to the beach, so authorities wanted to employ the use of excavators to move it.

Davis said that while there was no swimming at Palm Beach, they still needed to be careful about how they disposed of the huge carcass.

He said locals had already hacked away most of the blubber, leaving the thick skin, skeleton and insides, including organs and intestines.

The animal, a mature male, measured 11m and was 3m wide.

“The Health Department has been informed,” he said, adding that eating the meat, in its advanced stage of decomposition, could be harmful.

“We were told by those collecting the fat that they used it as part of their fertiliser for their crops.”

This practice is illegal because a permit is needed to possess and acquire whale meat.

Ezemvelo’s conservation manager, George Nair, told the Daily News on Tuesday that eating dead animals washed up on shore was “very risky”.

“You don’t know what the cause of death could be and, in this case, the animal was already dead when it washed on shore. It has already been on the beach for more than 24 hours in the heat of the sun, which will speed up the (decomposition) process,” he said.

Ezemvelo said whale stranding had been recorded since the 14th century.

Nair said stranding was fairly common at this time of year because they migrated annually along the coast from their feeding grounds in Antarctica. They came to the warmer waters to mate and give birth. During October and November, they would make the trip back to cooler waters.

Earlier this month, a young adult humpback whale, 12m-14m long, washed up on a beach in eManzimtoti.

It was believed to have been knocked unconscious by a vessel.

Daily News