A whale carcass sits on the beach, awaiting a necropsy the following morning.
Sometime during the night, someone decides that they need a trophy, so they head to the beach and begin their dirty work. When scientists arrive to perform the post-mortem examination Saturday morning on J-32 (a.k.a. Rhapsody), they discover that the body has been tampered with: several teeth have been removed.
Who does this?
Criminals. Opportunists. A person – or people – with no regard for the law.
Yes, it is an illegal act, under the federal Species At Risk act.
The maximum penalty is a $250,000 fine and five years in jail.
Why do this?
Probably for the money.
There is a black market for things such as whale teeth.
The value ranges, but a quick internet search suggests that whale teeth can fetch anywhere from $100 to $1,000 apiece.
The risk-reward process does not appear to be very well thought out, but then again, most criminals aren’t, shall we say, residents of the deep end of the intelligence pool.
In hindsight, it’s easy to point the finger at those in charge of the necropsy. There should have been security watching over the animal.
Certainly, there is a lesson to be learned. Surely, future carcasses awaiting necropsy will have security assigned to them. It’s a shame it has come to this.
As for the criminals, they will likely be caught. Somewhere down the line, they will show their trophy to the wrong person, offer it to an undercover cop posing as a buyer, or they will, most stupidly (and most likely), post a picture on Facebook.
Again, that goes back to the “shallow end of the intelligence pool” assessment.
Unfortunately, the big losers in all of this could be the big beasts themselves.
The stolen parts could hold revealing information as to the reason for Rhapsody’s demise. And until scientists know why J-32 died, they won’t be able to offer any kind of preventative measures.
Female whales of reproductive age are the most important members of the species, for obvious reasons. Knowing why one died prematurely is imperative to the survival of the species. We can only hope that the telling bit of information isn’t sitting in someone’s shed right now, awaiting the highest bidder.