A humpback whale has been found dead in the Amazon jungle miles from its natural habitat – leaving experts in Brazil baffled.
The 36 feet long, ten tonne marine mammal was discovered in the middle of the undergrowth on the island of Marajo off the Araruna Beach, at the mouth of the Amazon River.
Scientists believe the creature died at sea and may have landed in the wooded area after rough seas and high tides threw it inland, far from the ocean.
Dirlene Silva, from the department of health, sanitation and environment (Semma) said to Brazilian media Journal O Liberal: “We only found the whale because of the presence of scavenging birds of prey.
“The vultures were spotted circling above the carcass which was found hidden in the bush some distance from the sea.”
A team from Semma went to the region to inspect the remains, believed to be a 12 month old calf, and to gather information which could help to explain how the aquatic creature crash landed in the jungle.
Video taken on Friday shows the mammal splayed out in swampy mangrove surrounded by trees, with no visible signs of injury.
Biologists from the Bicho D’agua Institute have been called in to collect forensic samples to determine the cause of death.
They believe the massive animal, which measures six feet wide, was already dead when it was carried by huge waves to its unnatural resting place.
Renata Emin, the project’s president and marine specialist said: “We’re still not sure how it landed here, but we’re guessing that the creature was floating close to the shore and the tide, which has been pretty considerable over the past few days, picked it up and threw it inland, into the mangrove.
“Along with this astonishing feat, we are baffled as to what a humpback whale is doing on the north coast of Brazil during February because this is a very unusual occurrence.”
According to the expert, humpback whales are normally seen in Bahia on the north east coast between August to November. It is a well-known breeding and delivery area. Then they migrate to Antarctica to feed.
The biologist said: “Humpback whales don’t usually travel to the north. We have a record of one appearing in the area three years ago, but it’s rare.
“We believe this is a calf which may have been travelling with its mother and probably got lost or separated during the migratory cycle between the two continents.”
Researchers said as there are no clear reasons why it died, only an autopsy will determine the cause of death.
Emin added: “Depending on the state of decomposition, some information may already have been lost.
“We are collecting as much information as we can get and identifying marks and wounds on its body to see if it was caught in a net or hit by a boat.”
The scientists also plan to open up the carcass, collect samples of parasites and evidence from the muscles which will be sent to labs for disease analysis.
It’s believed the stranded animal may have been grounded for several days before it was found.
Gaining access to the remains proved difficult. It took two attempts to reach the site. The first was hampered by the swampy water in the mangrove.
The examination is expected to take up to ten days to complete.
For now there are no plans to remove the hulk due to the size, weight and location.
Instead researchers intend to bury much of carcass and the skeleton will be sent to the Goeldi Natural History Museum in Belem for future studies.