In pictures: Jubilee Whale Exhibit at Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Dawn Karen Tan, Ngau Kai Yan, Channel NewsAsia 14 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE: Remember the female sperm whale that washed ashore in late-July last year? Its skeleton is now on display at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum.

The Jubilee Whale Exhibit - at the mammals section of the museum - was officially unveiled on Monday evening (Mar 14) by Ms Ho Ching, chief executive of Temasek Holdings.

After deciding to salvage the whale last year, the museum launched an appeal for funds to preserve its skeleton. Nicknamed "Jubi", the exhibit will help educate visitors on whale biology and the threats faced by these mammals.

The whale, which had been discovered off the coast of Jurong Island, had presented authorities with a conundrum: Allow it to sink and float away, or salvage it? The Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum chose the latter.

“Surprisingly, everyone came together, doing a lot of abnormal things, and against all the odds ... we managed to get the whale to stay in Singapore waters, bring it all the way to Tuas and get it ready for processing,” said CEO of the museum Mr Peter Ng.

Nine museum staff were deployed to salvage the 10.5-metre specimen. Earning the nickname "Jubi Lee" - as she was found during Singapore's Jubilee year - the whale was to become the first sperm whale ever recorded in the coastal waters around Peninsular Malaysia.

Analysis from the DNA team discovered that Jubi had the same mitochondrial genetic signature common in sperm whales found in the North Pacific Ocean.

Examination of the carcass shed some light on Jubi's life and her final days.

With her stomach filled with indigestible squid beaks, it was found that she mainly fed on live squid, but there was also another troubling discovery - marine trash.

It was apparent that she had not eaten recently. Her body bore a terrible wound - a huge gash possibly incurred from a boat's propeller. She also suffered several broken bones in her spine. Scientists deduced the injury had left her unable to hunt. She had likely died just a few days before being discovered.

Protected by a whaling moratorium, sperm whales are now listed as vulnerable to extinction by conservation authorities.

This is not the first time the museum has had a large whale. The famous "Singapore Whale" was displayed in the old museum until 1974. After it was given away to another museum, all efforts to retrieve it had failed.

Staff at the museum saw Jubi's arrival as a gift.

Mr Ng said: “For fate or whatever reason, it has come back into our hands. It shows what crazy people can do in desperate situations. At the end of the day, we can come together to get something important done.

“Is the whale important? Oh yes, it's important, because it’s a symbol - a symbol that we are doing something right.”

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