Skeleton taken from whale found in Vietnam delta for research

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Oceanographers on Monday started to remove flesh from a whale carcass in the Mekong Delta province of Bac Lieu. They plan to take the giant mammal's bones back to Nha Trang for research.

The whale had been found dead of the coast of Bac Lieu in February. It had been brought ashore and plans announced to preserve the carcass in a glass tomb both as a tourist attraction and to enable fishing communities to continue the long-standing tradition of praying to whales to protect them while at sea.

"We will remove the flesh to take every single piece of the skeleton, take photos of the head and bring them back to Nha Trang for tests and we will identify the species at the earliest possible," said Bui Quang Nghi, an expert from Vietnam Institute of Oceanography.

Later, the bones will be cleaned, dried, and soaked with chemicals before being put together with iron and lead strings to recover the skeletal form as a whole. This will be put in a glass case that visitors can see, Nghi said.

He said the flesh will be treated with chemicals before it is buried, to avoid environmental pollution.

The latest plan to deal with the whale's carcass was announced after Bac Lieu authorities failed to preserve the skeleton by using too much formaldehyde and similar oxidants to deal with the stink from the decaying whale, the largest ever found in the province.

The lack of any progress in carrying out the first plan had left local residents "tortured" by the smell of rotting flesh, with many suffering nausea and vomiting fits.

It is expected to take five days for experts to finish cutting the flesh of the whale that is 16 meters long and weighs 15 tons. More than ten local fishermen will help them in the task.

Until now, the cause of death as well as the age and species of the whale, which was found dead some 26 sea miles off Bac Lieu on February 21, are still unknown.

Local residents intended to cut the whale and bury its flesh that day but the flesh was too tough.

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