Mammal mystery: Police appeal over missing whale skull

The skull belonging to northern bottlenose whale taken from Cocklawburn Beach near Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Mammal mystery: Police appeal over missing whale skull Police Scotland

A missing whale skull has become the subject of a police investigation.

The skull, belonging to a northern bottlenose whale and measuring 100 x 60 x 60cms, was left on Cocklawburn Beach near Berwick-upon-Tweed in October.

But enquiries have revealed the skull had been removed at some point between October 19-20.

The 45kg skull had previously travelled the length of Scotland after being found on a beach near Cape Wrath in the Highlands.

Washed onto the beach in 2018, the whale carcass was being monitored by the John Muir Trust – with plans afoot to move the skull to National Museums Scotland to be studied.

Detective Sergeant Billy Telford, Police Scotland’s wildlife crime unit, said: “Whales, dolphin and porpoise are protected species in Scottish/UK coastal areas, and this includes their remains. People may not be aware that it is illegal to remove their remains from beaches and other coastal areas.

“This particular item had been earmarked for study. It is a rare example of this species in Scotland and therefore is of significant scientific interest to improve both our understanding of the species and its protection.

“It is a very big and unusual item and someone must know of its whereabouts. If you do then please contact Police Scotland so we can arrange for its return to the museum.”

Police Scotland say it is illegal to possess any part of a whale, dolphin or porpoise without being licensed. Any remains belonging to these species should not be removed from coastal areas.

Northern bottlenose whales are a protected species and rare visitors to Scottish waters.

Dr Andrew Kitchener, principal curator of vertebrates at National Museums Scotland said: “It is important that this skull of a bottle-nosed whale is returned so it can be added to the internationally significant collection of marine mammals which we hold at National Museums Scotland.

“Strandings of this mammal are rare and examples such as this can contribute greatly to the knowledge we hold about these incredible animals and provide a valuable resource to enable further future scientific study of the species and its ecosystem.”

Don O’Driscoll of the John Muir Trust said: “The Trust is not happy with the way the whale skull was taken from its land at Sandwood Bay and subsequently lost.

“We hope the police will be successful in finding it and that it may then be displayed at the National Museum for the benefit of the public. Exhibits like this are rare and provide an interesting insight into the anatomy of these specialised deep-diving marine mammals.”

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