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While Village Mourns Dead Baby Whale, Fishermen Butcher It

October 25, 1989

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) _ Residents of a southern Chile community on Wednesday mourned the death of a baby whale that it adopted three months ago after the creature took refuge in a local cove with its mother.

But fishermen in the village of Punta Lavapie reacted differently - they butchered the 26-foot-long right whale ″Tomito,″ or Tommy, for food after it died Monday in Arauco Gulf.

″All Arauco is hurting,″ the local governor, Eugenia Cofre, was quoted as saying Wednesday in the Santiago daily La Segunda.

The whale and its mother arrived in July at the cove near Punta Lavapie, 360 miles south of Santiago, residents said. Punta Lavapie, a village of about 200 families, adopted the whales, which are large-headed with wrinkles on the throat and chest, and nicknamed them ″Tomito″ and ″Ema.″

Thousands of tourists visited the warm-water cove along with marine biologists. The scientists said the newborn whale was being nurtured until it was big enough to endure the rigors of a migratory trip to Antartica for feeding.

But the whale was found dead on a rocky beach Monday, according to Santiago newspapers. The cause of death was unclear, but some newspapers said it may have been slashed by a fishing boat’s propeller.

The newspapers carried photographs Wednesday of fishermen carving up the whale with long kitchen knives.

The mother remained offshore, frantically diving and surfacing, the newspapers reported.

Chilean naturalists said they planned to investigate the cause of death. They said local authorities should have provided more protection for the whales.

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