'Pretty stupid' - jawbones stolen from washed-up whales

The sperm whale is thought to have been part of a pod that got lost on its journey south.

The sperm whale that washed up at Sheringham, before its jawbone was cut off. Picture: RJW.Photography - Credit: RJW.Photography

The jawbones of two huge sperm whales that have washed up recently on the north Norfolk coast have been sawn off and stolen by treasure hunters.

Norfolk whale expert Carl Chapman said a chainsaw was probably used to cut off the jawbones, which was against the law.

Mr Chapman said the jawbone of the carcass at Sheringham - which was discovered on Monday - must have been cut off sometime the following night. The whale is more than 10 tonnes and between 10 and 12 metres (33ft to 39ft) long. 

He said the jawbone of a whale that washed ashore at Weybourne at the start of December had also been stolen.

The sperm whale washed on the beach on January 5. 

The sperm whale washed on the beach at Sheringham on January 5. Picture: Amy Christie - Credit: Amy Christie

Mr Chapman said: "It's a hinderance to the CSIP (Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme) as well as being illegal. It's pretty stupid really. 

"They are probably after the sets of teeth. People do like to collect these things, and some people have been making the decision to steal them."

Whale carcasses are protected by UK law as well as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) which makes it illegal to own any part of a dead whale without a special licence. 

A spokesperson from the Receiver of Wreck, which is responsible for processing reports of whale beachings, said: "We have had reports that the jaws of whales have been removed and this is being investigated by the relevant authorities. Whales are protected and possession of any part of the animal is strictly illegal under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and Habitats Regulations, except under Natural England licence."

Meanwhile, North Norfolk District Council has cordoned off the area around the whale carcass at Sheringham and its environmental services officers are working with subcontractors to work out the best way of moving it. 

A dead sperm whale has washed up on the beach in north Norfolk. 

A dead sperm whale on the rocks at Sheringham. Picture: Jason Tooke - Credit: Jason Tooke

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A spokesman said: "Currently, with it being on the rocks, it makes the removal a bit more complex, but with all being well and depending on the weather and tide, we look to have it removed by the end of next week."

In December, the council employed a subcontractor to move the whale at Weybourne using "large plant machinery", and it was disposed of in a deep landfill in west Norfolk. The council said that whale was almost 13 tonnes and 14 metres (46ft) long.

Mr Chapman said he would be keeping an eye on eBay to check if any whale teeth which could have come from the recent standings were put up for sale. 

The sperm whale that washed up at Weybourne in December. Picture:  CHRIS TAYLOR PHOTO/AEROVISUALS

The sperm whale that washed up at Weybourne in December. Picture:  CHRIS TAYLOR PHOTO/AEROVISUALS - Credit: CHRIS TAYLOR PHOTO/AEROVISUALS

Mr Chapman said anyone who saw a whale tooth advertised for sale should inform the police, and they could also tell him about it by calling 07833463 034.

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