Rescued pygmy killer whale released into the wild


Shangri-la’s Tanjung Aru Resort (STAR) in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, was the impromptu headquarters for the rescue and subsequent release of a pygmy killer whale over the past two days.

The Pygmy killer whale (Feresa attenuata) is a small and rarely seen cetacean of the oceanic dolphin family. ‘Tony’, as the (female) whale became known, was found stranded on Tanjung Aru beach by a member of STAR’s security team early on the morning of Tuesday 10th January 2012. She was moved to the swimming enclosure at STAR hotel in order to let her recuperate in safety under the supervision of the Sabah wildlife department with the expert guidance of Marine Biologist Lindsay Porter and assistance from local NGO LEAP and WWF Malaysia.

In a fantastic show of support volunteers of all ages, from all walks of life, came forward to help mount a round-the-clock vigil for the stricken whale. Working in teams of up to four people, in shifts of 30mins, volunteers were briefed by Dr Lindsay Porter or WWF’s Ken Kassem before swimming out to the deeper water where they would gently keep Tony afloat and monitor her breathing and vital signs.

After she had rested for 36 hours and been encouraged to eat some fish it was decided to attempt to re-release Tony into the wild at high tide on the afternoon of Wednesday 11th January. Borneo Dream kindly donated their staff and boat to transport Tony out to Edgell Patches, just outside the boundary of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine park. The operation was a tricky one but the estimated 150kg whale was lifted on board, to cheers from the large crowd of onlookers at the hotel, and whisked out to her destination. At around 5.30pm, to the backdrop of a classic Sabah sunset, Tony slid back into the water and after a brief moment of anxiety from the team when she floated upside down, she righted herself and swam away from the boat into the open ocean.

At this stage it’s hard to tell if this is the end of Tony’s story. According to Dr Lindsay Porter marine mammals that beach themselves are usually seriously ill, and there may well have been problems internally with Tony that we can only guess at. At Scubazoo we all certainly hope this is a happy ending and we’ll update this blog if we ge any further information. Our thanks and good wishes go out to everyone who helped out over the two day period. It was great to see such an amazing response from the local community.

Scubazoo were given permission by Sabah Wildlife Department to document the proceedings using photo and video. For any media enquiries please contact:

Photo: Gil Woolley – Photo library manager
Video: Cara Morrison  – Stock Footage library manager