04 Aug 2002 14:55 BST
Rare whale found on South Africa beach
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - An extremely rare Longman's beaked whale, only the
third complete specimen known to science, has washed up on a South African
beach, a senior scientist says.
"The animal is a male and it was found on Thursday. We are very excited. It
is a very rare animal that we know little about," Vic Cockcroft of the
Centre for Dolphin Studies told Reuters by phone on Sunday.
The five-metre animal has a beak-shaped mouth and is believed to spend most
of its time far from shore in deep waters.
There have been only two recorded sightings of a live beaked whale in the
The physical evidence of the animal's existence is limited to three skulls
found in Somalia, Kenya and Tasmania, and two carcasses that also washed up
on South African beaches, one in the early 1980s and the other in 1992.
Cockcroft said he had initially misidentified the earlier specimens but DNA
tests conducted in 1999 showed they were Longman's beaked whales.
This is not the first strange creature from the deep to be found on South
Africa's shores this year.
The discovery of the beaked whale comes just over three months after a
rarely seen megamouth shark, unknown to science before 1976, was found on a
beach in the same area.