The whale shark which was found dead in Pakistani waters was four to five months pregnant and its ovaries weighed 120 kilogrammes, said Shaukat Hussain of the Marine Fisheries Department.
Its heart, liver and other organs will be preserved after a post mortem. Experts did not find any marks under the skin which suggests that it was hit by a ship. The absence of injuries that could be caused by a hook or fishing net have ruled out the possibility of it being killed by fishermen. Hussain said that it could be a natural death or due to contaminated water. According to Dr Hina Baig from the Institute of Oceanography contamination is a more likely explanation as she developed a rash when collecting samples of liquid from its gills. She said whale sharks can live up to 100 years and their age can be determined by their backbone.
Dr Gleyn Bledsoe from the University of Idaho’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences was part of the team, which supervised the autopsy. “Whale sharks can carry up to 300 eggs,” he said. “This is really remarkable that we have found it in such a good shape. This is a really docile creature, which is endangered now.”
The skin of the 40-foot whale shark was taken off and salted. It will be flown to Islamabad where four months and Rs2.5 million will be spent on taxidermy before it is brought back to Karachi. The managing director of the Karachi Fish Harbour Authority, Abdul Ghani Jokio said that the specimen will be brought back to Karachi for display.
The flesh is being disposed of and will not be sold. The skull, cartilage, fins and skin will be taken to Islamabad.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 12th, 2012.