Labuan: Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman's wise decision in ordering the skeleton of the Bryde's whale be preserved will be a permanent legacy in favour of conservation. [See "Bryde's whale's bones now the focus." NST, 20 Dec 2006; pdf]
Not many know that a Resident Councillor of Malacca, DFF Harvey, did just that when a whale got standard in Malacca on June 19, 1892. The said whale, which is an Indian Fin Whale (Balancenoptera) was first displayed at the Raffles Museum in Singapore.
But when the "Labuan Marine Museum" was opened on Jan 26, 2003, this has been the star attraction. Compared to the 68ft Bryde's whole which got standard in Sabah a fortnight ago the Indian whale is merely 42ft.
So one can imagine the interest it will generate when the Bryde goes on display in skeletal form.
The plaque below the Indian Fin Whale reads: "There is one certain record of the Blue whale from Malaysian waters. An immature 42ft was standed on beach at Kg Sa'Batu Malacca on June 19, 1892".
According to Hanitsh (1908: 13), a "pagar" was built around it to prevent it getting back to water at high tide and was left to die. "It lingered for a week making a bull-like noise for 3 days, no use was made of the blubber but DRR Harvey, then Resident Councillor of Malacca, had the skeleton cleaned and sent to the Raffles Museum.
"Nothing could be done with it at that time owing to lack of space in the existing galleries. In 1907, it was hung over the passage-way between the old and new building. At first it was identified as Humpback Whale and it occurs under this name in Flower's Catalogue of Mammals (1900:376) following Hanitsh (1899).
"Actually though it might possibly occur here, there is no record of the Humpback from the Malaysian sub-region. "Later this Malacca specimen was re-examined and the designation changed to the Indian Fin Whale, a synonym of Blue Whale."
Despite a 114 years having passed, it commands so much interest and curiosity from the public. According to marine enthusiasts this is because whales are like dinosaurs of the sea. Some could be near extinction. "If the remains are not preserved we will be robbing our next generation," said one of them.
Though much has been said about the Sabah whale, it is still puzzling why it chose to land on Sabah's shores.
Meanwhile, the Labuan Marine Museum's Blue Fin Whale has also seen new interest from the public following the Daily Express reports on the Bryde's whale. Based on the museum's statistics, some 205,353 visited the museum from January to November alone this year. Of this, 7,544 were foreign tourists/visitors with domestic tourists reaching 196,309 and students at 1,500.
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