The carcass of a 16 metre long whale has been found on a community beach in Akwa IbomState, off the Atlantic Ocean as some of the villagers had started cutting off the body parts for meat.
Some local residents of Okpo Ita in Ibeno local government area of Akwa Ibom State, were left in total shock after they discovered the carcass of a whale which was found on a beach off the Atlantic Ocean as a handful of tourists have been attracted to the scene since the news broke out.
According to an eyewitness, Edem Eniang, a biodiversity conservationist from the University of Uyo, they saw the dead whale in the morning of September 15, and some of the villagers had started cutting off the body parts for meat before Eniang and his team of researchers, and the local authorities got to the scene, several days after it was found.
Eniang exclusively disclosed to Premium Times that the carcass is about 16 metres in length.
“I observed that something close to four metres was missing. That is a part of what was cut off by the villagers,” Eniang said on Wednesday.
Speaking further, Eniang explained the significance of whales in Nigeria waters.
“There’s an international accord known as Convention on Migratory Species in which Nigeria is a signatory. The essence of the convention is that every signatory country must go out of its ways to provide safe passage to all grazing animals passing through their territory, not to allow them get into harm, not to be killed or exploited. So, by being a signatory to that convention, we have to account for whales and other similar species that pass through our territory.
“Whales are national heritage. In Nigeria, the living whales are our national heritage. The carcasses are our heritage as well.
“Conservation International (CI) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recognise this region – the Akwa Ibom shoreline, all the way to Gabon, Central Africa and to Ghana– as the gulf of Guinea biodiversity hotspot.
“Now, it serves as their breeding ground. So, when they travel from the North Pole to South Pole, they hang around this our area to conduct their sexual activities from courtship play, dance, and so on, which is what we normally see in videos when they jump out of water, dive back and play. It is in this area they have their reproductive activities and raise their young ones before they are able to swim back to the North Pole.”
Eniang, who has spent about three days so far in the local community, is persuading the local authorities and the state government to preserve the carcass as a national heritage.
“In our own local environment, when something dies the people don’t know that it still has value. The carcass lying there is a very serious national monument; the skeleton must be collected, curated, and mounted for recreational, scientific and research use,” he said.